Friday, December 18, 2015

Proud not upset about Blaine High School

I just became aware today of a controversy brewing because the Blaine High School choir sang a song at their concert this past Thursday that had Arabic words, including the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great.” 


The title of the article on the web site is: “Parents Question Choice To Sing ‘Allahu Akbar’ At Holiday Concert.”

As a parent of a Blaine high school 9th grader I don’t question this choice at all.  Singing a song at a choir concert is not an endorsement of a religion. The choir concert is obviously not a religious worship service.  For me singing this song is an issue of respect.  My daughter doesn’t sing in the choir, but I would have been proud to have her sing this song.  Have we become so insecure that we can't sing a song about our Muslim friends?


As a pastor of a church in Blaine I'm proud that the Blaine High school choir sings songs from different religious traditions. Our Muslim friends are sisters and brothers in faith.  Our lineage goes back to Abraham.  I don’t feel threatened by our Muslim friends at all.  In fact I believe that Jesus is smiling about what happened at the choir concert.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Hannah Moore!

What a privilege it is to be this now young woman's father.  Happy Birthday, Hannah Louise Moore.

Hannah was born in the middle of a snow storm at Rochester Methodist Hospital at 10:38 a.m. on December 16, 2000.  She was nine days late from her due date--and certainly worth the waiting.  The waiting reminds me of the Advent season--as we wait to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  I had moments when I didn't think she would ever arrive.  When the doctor held her up for the first time I actually couldn't believe she had finally arrived.

Hannah has grown into a tender, sweet, mature young woman.  She is fiercely protective of her friends.  Her phone is the vehicle of her connections, and its use reveals the intensity of her interactions.

One of my favorite memories of Hannah this last year was her last tennis match.  She had played doubles for the entire year, but for this last match her coach allowed her to play singles.  Hannah literally galloped over the court, running down shots with an ease that surprised all of us.  Her happiness beamed from her spirit; her light was shining.

After my heart surgery I'm planning on doing much more running with Hannah.  My goal is a half-marathon for 2016; I'll let Hannah choose her own goal.  Running besides a woman with long legs will not be easy--but it will be a pleasure and privilege that this father looks forward to savoring.

Happy 15th birthday, Hannah.  You literally bring joy to every day of our lives!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Health News

I have news to share.  I am going to be having surgery to replace the aortic valve of my heart with a mechanical valve on Tuesday, December 29 at University Hospital in Minneapolis.

If you are surprised by this news—believe me—your surprise is nothing compared to the shock I experienced when I learned of this condition on Friday, December 4.    

Let me share some context.

I am a runner.  I’ve run two marathons; a half marathon; many 10K’s.  Early in 2015 I started experiencing chest pains at the start of my running.  This led me to talk with my doctor.  I did a stress test, an EKG, a chest X-ray, some other tests and an echo-cardiogram in July.  Everything seemed to be fine.

However In September my running capacity was severely diminished.  I could only run one mile without stopping to walk.  One day while I was running I was in so much pain that I needed to lie down on the grass on the side of the road.  This led me back to my doctor.  He referred me to a Cardiologist.

Last Friday, December 4 the Cardiologist shared with me that I have a bicuspid aortic valve.  I’ve probably had this since birth.  This valve has severely narrowed meaning I needed surgery.  He also shared that if I didn’t have the surgery within a year that I would be at high risk to pass away.

Today I had an appointment with a surgeon at University Hospital.  I felt very comfortable with him, and I decided to let him do the surgery which will be Tuesday, December 29.

While I was waiting to see the surgeon today I felt a wave of anxiety.  So I sent out a message on my Facebook page for prayers.  And wow!!  I know that people were praying because my anxiety diminished, and I was able to make a plan in which I have high confidence.

The surgery is serious, but I am a very low-risk candidate.   I am young, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and am decent physical shape.  The survival rate for is over 99%.  I will be on blood thinner for the rest of my life.  My prayer is I’ll never need another heart surgery again.

I will probably be in the hospital for a week and then recover at home for another two to five weeks.  Tonight the Steering Committee at Chain of Lakes set in motion a plan to provide pastoral coverage to our congregation until I can come back.

In a way I feel very, very fortunate.  If hadn’t been a runner it is quite possible this condition wouldn’t have presented itself.  I am healthy; I have a terrific support system of family, friends, and church; I have a world-class surgeon; and I have health insurance.

And most importantly God is very present.  I have great faith that God will use this situation for something special.

Happy to answer any questions, talk on the phone, answer E-mails or texts, or do whatever else I can.


Please say prayers.  I will continue to share updates on this blog

Monday, December 7, 2015

Music Director at Chain of Lakes Church

Chain of Lakes is hiring a new Music Director. This person will have the opportunity to continue the excellent ministry of music that already takes place. And this person will have the opportunity to share the music ministry at our new congregation. Check out a picture of the Job Description below. The Job Description is also on the Chain of Lakes web site at http://www.colpres.org/job-opportunities/ Interested folks can E-mail me a resume at pastor@colpres.org or call our office at 763-208-8049.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Presbytery meeting

The Presbytery of Twin Cities Area met for our regular meeting this past Tuesday at Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church.  This was the first time I can remember the Presbytery meeting at Dayton Avenue, whose sanctuary was designed by Cass Gilbert.  I’m almost embarrassed to say that this was the first time I’ve ever been to this church building.

I came early to attend a pastor’s group.  Our group meets once a month for mutual support and help.  When our gathering was over I walked into the sanctuary and could immediately feel a buzz.  The two Administrative Commissions regarding the departure of Stadium Village and Faith Presbyterian were sharing their reports before the meeting. 

I set up a table and talked to people about the new coffee house ministry at Chain of Lakes which is starting in January.  We are looking for a Booking Agent.  This is a person who would bring in arts and bands to the coffee house.  We believe that our space can be a venue for music groups in the north Metro.  If you know of someone who would like to create this, let me know at pastor@colpres.org

During worship Josh Heikkila shared some funny stories about his mission work in Ghana.  The Presbytery voted to move Philip Romine to candidate status. 

The leaders of the Stadium Village Church Administrative Commission then shared general terms for the departure from the church to ECO.  The general terms can be found on page 31-33 of the November 2015 Presbytery minutes at: http://www.presbyterytwincities.org/PresbyteryMeetingInfo

The Presbytery has already voted to release Hope Church and Christ Church.  This was the first time I can remember during an Administrative Commission report that people questioned the release of property to a church.   A concern was shared about giving up a strategic presence on the University of Minnesota campus.  Other questions were asked about the gift of money from the closing of Warrendale Presbyterian Church.  The Presbytery eventually approved the general terms on a voice vote.

The Presbytery then thanked Gwin Pratt and Kathy Michael for their long service as Teaching Elders.  The recognitions that were shared were very moving.

After dinner the Administrative Commission (AC) for Faith Presbyterian presented general terms for the departure of the church to ECO.  The report has been moved up so that more people would attend.  After reports from members of the AC and from the congregation’s negotiating committee, a passionate debate broke out.  Concerns for the original members of the congregation who helped build the church were raised.  A written amendment was passed out that changed the general terms of the agreement.  The amendment can be found on page 35 of the minutes. 

As the votes on this amendment were being counted Jeff Japinga, the Transitional Executive Presbyter shared a report.  He shared that in his listening to people in the Presbytery a large gap exists between insiders and outsiders in the Presbytery.  He said that it is important for the Presbytery to come to terms with what it means to be “we.” 

The Amendment was passed 78-49.  More debate and amendments were shared.  Members of the negotiating team shared their frustration about the process.  General terms were eventually passed.  The church will have to decide if they can approve the changes.

The budget was then presented.  Part of the budget report was a motion to stop paying Chain of Lakes from a designated fund called Fund 3.  This is a fund designated for church development.  Some of it is designated for urban ministry and some for new church development.  An amendment was shared to delete this motion.  It was eventually tabled until January.

During the conversation factually incorrect information was shared about the finances of Chain of Lakes.  In 2015 Chain of Lakes is supporting approximately 60 percent of our budget.  Our goal for 2016 is to support 70 percent of our budget.  Pittsburgh Presbytery will charter a new church development when that congregation can support 75 percent of the budget.  I spoke out and challenged the incorrect information that was shared.

The budget was passed, it was 9:30, and I decided to go home.  Significant issues were still on the docket.

This was the most intense meeting of the Presbytery I can remember for a while.  The meeting was led in a proper way—it’s just the issues of departing churches and the use and spending of money are garnering significant attention right now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A tribute to Maxine Harris

I can't do better than the following eulogy my Dad shared yesterday at my Grandmother Maxine's funeral.  Words can't adequately explain what she meant to her family and friends.  She was a classy woman whose impact will last for generations.  She was probably the closest reader of my blog.  If I went too long without writing a blog, she would remind me through her son, Jerry, that I needed to write something.  Here's for you, Grandma!


Most of us admire the person who follows the typical American way:  someone who is independent, competitive, decisive, and proud of her family.  Maxine Harris was such a person.

Some of us frequently comment about some of Maxine’s often used expressions.  One of these, “Jackie [her daughter], where are my glasses?”  So far Jerry [her son] has found ten pair of glasses in her apartment.  We are still counting.  Maxine refused to wear glasses full time, and she also refused to wear one of those unattractive chains holding the glasses close by.  Such a chain was not stylish.  And all of us know that Maxine had style.  She was a classy lady.  When style and practicality clashed, style always won.

She especially enjoyed shopping at Talbot’s.  The sales people always looked forward to waiting on her.  Talbot’s catered to classy ladies.  Maxine was a classy, not a dowdy, dresser.  She enjoyed attractive clothes, and she enjoyed wearing these clothes every day.  Someone commented that she would wear her mink coat anywhere and anytime.  It was only in the past year or two that Jackie, Pat [her daughter] and Rose [Jerry’s wife] convinced her to avoid high heel shoes.  Maxine and Vinton square danced for a number of years, and Jackie wore one of her classy long dresses at the Minnesota State square dance fashion show.

Her style also was obvious in her entertaining.  Never did she serve without table cloths on the tables, and the good china frequently was used.  The food also was prepared and with detail.  A few years ago when the family decided that she should not cook for the large holiday dinners, she was not convinced that a come-and-go Christmas dinner of soup and sandwiches was appropriate.

Another phrase Maxine frequently said: “I can do it.”  She was very competitive and independent, and often refused others who wanted to help her when she thought she was fully capable.  This competitiveness probably started at birth when she won the “cutest” baby contest in Mantorville.  As a high school basketball player her team lost only one game in the two years she played.  She was a guard, probably telling everyone what play was run.  She bowled on a team for the Hubbell House.  She enjoyed every table game and always liked winning.  And she often won.

And her most competitive venture was on the golf course.  After her retirement, she decided that golf was her game.  Before swinging for the first time, she took lessons from a professional and purchased expensive golf clubs.  She played in tournaments in various area towns.  On her ninetieth birthday, Jackie, Pat, and Rose suggested that she play golf so that they could arrange the dining area without her suggestions.  So we had the Maxine Open.  Of course her two-person team won.  She was particularly proud of her putting, and she always counted her putts.  If the ball was one inch off the green and she used her putter, she reminded the score keeper that the stroke was not a putt because the ball was not on the green.  One of the last times I played with her well into her nineties, I asked her, “Maxine, what did you score on that hole.”  She said, “I had a five if you don’t count the ball in the water.”  I said to myself, “When you are over ninety, if you say you scored a five, five went on the scorecard.”

She was an avid fan of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Timberwolves.  She watched every game.  Her friend, Carole Baker, and she visited over the telephone about the Twins often.  They made certain that each other knew when the game was on television and what channel.  Then they talked about the game, probably like expert baseball analysts.  One wonders what went through her mind when Pat mentioned the night before her death that the Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakes.  She never gave up on these two professional teams.  She probably thought that, if the Twins were behind by nine runs in the ninth inning, there was still a possibility of their winning.

We often wondered how many times we heard Maxine say something like this: “Don’t you want something more to each.  There are cookies and ice cream in the refrigerator.”  She often told about preparing the chickens for the threshers starting early in the morning.  Those meals for the threshers must have been special.  On the farm, she always prepared a substantial breakfast for her husband, Vinton.  She lay in bed until she heard the truck rattling down the road returning from the cheese factory.  Bacon, eggs, toast, juice, and a Harris tradition, a cookie.  Everyone in the family knew about her chocolate brownies.  To Maxine, any special time required an angel food cake, usually with seven-minute frosting often drizzled with chocolate.  At Christmas, artificial holly rested on the top of the cake.  Maxine always satisfied the Harris sweet tooth.

During the past days of her life, Maxine was visited by grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, the staff at Prairie Meadows, and many friends.  Even in her declining health, she enjoyed this company, especially from the little ones.

Her interest in family probably began when Vinton wrote a note to her that the “Easter Bunny would deliver something special in a basket.”  Of course it was an engagement ring.  She never forgot a birthday and most anniversaries of her three children, their spouses, the grandchildren and great grandchildren and their spouses, and the great-great grandchildren, close to forty individuals, received cares and a gift of money.  Christmas was incomplete without a visit from all of the family.  She was generous with her Christmas presents.  And of course, Jackie and Pat frequently mentioned that Jerry was her mother’s favorite child!  Most of us are still wondering.

A cornerstone to one’s interest in family is faith.  Maxine was a member of First Congregational  Church for eight-seven years.  That is unbelievable.  She was a faithful organist here for over fifty years and practiced for every event—weddings, funerals, community events.  She looked forward to playing organ-piano duets with her friend, Shirley Loquai.  At Prairie Meadows, she participated in the weekly Bible Study, always reminding the study leader, Pastor Clint Patterson, a Presbyterian, that she was a Congregationalist.  Pastor Clint always said that Maxine asked the tough questions.

Can anyone think of anyone with a better green thumb than the one on Maxine’s hand?  She could bring a dead plant back to life.  On the farm and in the yard in Mantorville, her roses were spectacular.  She knew that one rose was a Barbara Bush rose and another a John Kennedy rose.  She was proud of the hollyhocks covering the outhouse and the sweet peas growing on the trellis.


Maxine Ruth Stussy Harris—wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother, good friends and, recently notes as the Ambassador of Public Relations at Prairie Meadows—you will be missed.  We are here today to celebrate her life.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What a night! Box City at Blaine High School

This past Thursday night, October 22 Chain of Lakes Church partnered with Blaine High School (BHS) to share an event called Box City.  We slept out in boxes on the tennis courts of BHS to give participants an experience of homelessness and to publicize the issue of homelessness among teenagers in Anoka County.

This was the second year in a row that Box City took place.  For a while I wasn’t even sure we would have Box City.  The Social Worker at Blaine High School with whom we worked last year left for another position in the school district.  It wasn’t until some teachers at Blaine High School approached Chain of Lakes about doing Box City were we sure that this would happen.  How cool is it that the school approached the church about partnering together!  And how often does that happen?  We are so glad that Chain of Lakes has developed this level of partnership with Blaine High School.

Once we decided Box City would happen, we had a planning team made up of folks from the school and Chain of Lakes.  We meet for five weeks.  It was a wonderful and effective planning group. 

Over a hundred teenagers, adults from the school and thirteen adults from Chain of Lakes ultimately participated. (The picture above is from folks from Chain of Lakes.)

We started the evening with a program about teen homelessness.  Jon Sitarz had us all in tears as he shared his story of starting Hope 4 Youth; Jessica, a student from Blaine High School who served on the planning team, shared her stories of helping homeless teenagers; Rochelle Carrick, a woman who attends Chain of Lakes, shared her story of being homeless as a teenager;  I talked about the importance of having compassion towards teens who were homeless.

At the program we discovered that some of the students raised money for the event.  One student raised over $400; another student raised $200. 

After the program we went out to set up boxes.  We were fortunate in that Josh Dochniak, from Chain of Lakes, again was able to provide boxes.  The weather was warm and the feeling among all participants was excitement.

The choir at Blaine High School was holding their concert.  They dedicated a piece to teenagers who were homeless and mentioned Box City.  After one song, they took a collection for homeless teenagers.  They raised $1,200!

We went to bed in our boxes a little after 10.  About four in the morning it started to rain.  The rain wasn’t strong and it never made it through the box in which I was sleeping.  The rain reminded us of the challenges that homeless teenagers encounter that the rest of us won’t encounter.

Most of us were up at 6:00 in the morning to start taking down our boxes.  The students went directly to school.  The idea was for them to have an experience of going to school as a homeless teenager would experience.  We cleaned up and were off the tennis courts by 7:30 a.m.

Paul Edget—a participant in Box City from Chain of Lakes—wrote about his experience at:  https://www.facebook.com/pedgett?fref=ts

This was a marvelous event that gives me wonderful hope that the goal of ending homelessness among teenagers can be reached!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Worshiping at the Crossing

Our worship team has been spending some time visiting other churches as we prepare for a worship retreat this Saturday.  I chose to attend the Crossing Church in Elk River.  Our team wanted to learn about a very large church that wasn’t Eagle Brook.  I drove there yesterday and attended their 9:00 a.m. worship.

According to their web site--http://freegrace.tv/#/about-us/our-story—the Crossing was launched in October 2004.  They have grown very fast.  They have 1,600 people who attend worship at one of their four campuses.  They also have an on-line campus and and three micro-campuses.

I arrived at their Elk River campus about five minutes before worship.  I was greeted at the door and given a lot of information about worship and the Crossing.  In their lobby they had a coffee shop, book store, plenty of signs, and directions to their kids space.  When I walked into their worship space I was offered ear plugs. 

Their worship space was very large.  It had a cement floor, two large screens on the side, a smaller screen at the front, a stage and lots of audio/video equipment in the back.  Much of the space was roped off at the 9:00 service.  I would guess that between 150 and 200 people attended that service.

The band began right as the timer on the video screen hit zero.  The lead guitarist welcomed us and a band of eight played two songs.  Many people raised their hands—the band acknowledged that it was early to worship and encouraged us to be energized.  After the songs a woman shared a prayer with music playing in the background.   We were then encouraged to fill out a connect card that was in the back of the seat in front of us.  Announcements were shared and then a video about the current sermon series called, “I Am.”  After the video the band led us in a very high energy song.

Lead pastor, Eric Dykstra, then talked about the I Am sermon series that he has been sharing.  This is an identity series.  He was dressed in a leather coat with black jeans.  He was a very engaging speaker.  He talked for about ten minutes and then introducted four people who talked about different parts of 1 Peter 2:9-10.  Each person was on staff.  One person talked about how God chose us, the next person talked about how we are royalty, the third person talked about how we are holy.  All of the speakers gave their talks from memory.  Eric Dykstra then came back and did a wrap up.

Before the closing Kelly Dykstra gave a six minute talk on giving.  She used the metaphor of a ketchup bottle and shared a story of using ketchup at a recent staff retreat.  A video was then shared about an upcoming series on the devil along with an announcement about a large Halloween party.  I left the building around 10:20.

I’m glad I went.  The people at the Crossing are obviously doing something right.  I didn’t know the songs and had a hard time singing.  I enjoyed a few of the talks—though I was given so much information that I felt like a water hose had sprayed me. 


I don’t think I could worship weekly at the Crossing, but I applaud them for the many different ways they are reaching and connecting to people.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A father's delight!

A few weeks ago I asked folks from Chain of Lakes how Jesus has changed their life for the better.  I was doing a sermon series on Evangelism.  I was sharing with our congregation that the start of effective evangelism is knowing our own story.  When we can communicate how our lives are better because of Jesus, then we’ve gone a long ways towards having an effective conversation about faith.

I received a number of written responses from people to this question. 

I received so many that I decided to share one with the congregation in my sermon yesterday.   I was touched by the response.  When I wrote the sermon I didn’t know who wrote the response, and really wasn’t even interested in knowing who wrote it.  I thought it was a terrific response.  This was what the person wrote:

“By having Jesus in my life I have learned to accept and love people for who they are, including myself.  By accepting my flaws and knowing my strengths and weaknesses.  Jesus has also opened my eyes to nature and the beautiful wonders of creation that so many of us take for granted.  With all the pressure and expectations from social media, Jesus accepts and loves me for who I am.  Jesus teaches me how to be compassionate and how to be a good friend and mentor.  By sharing my gifts with others and showing people the word of God, I feel worthy.”

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter, Hannah, (her picture is above with my Grandmother who just turned 101) asked me about this statement.  Imagine my surprise and even shock when she told me that she was the one who wrote it!  Wow!  I was so touched by this that I couldn’t help but give her a hug.


I’ve had people ask me on occasion how it is for Hannah to attend both a Presbyterian church and a Catholic church.  The question behind the comment is obvious—isn't it confusing for her to learn from two denominations that are so different?  Her experiences have obviously made a difference—and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Blast-Off

I cannot wait for this Sunday, September 13 as Chain of Lakes will be offering a carnival for Hope 4 Youth at 11:30 a.m.  The theme of the carnival is Blast-Off.  We will have space stations (carnival booths), food, and a lot of fun.  Tickets for the carnival are $5 with all of the proceeds going to Hope 4 Youth.  The address for the carnival is 10130 Davenport Street NE in Blaine.  More information about the carnival can be found at the church’s web site at colpres.org

Hope 4 Youth is an agency that helps homeless teenagers in Anoka County.  Last Sunday in worship John Sitarz spoke about how he helped found Hope 4 Youth.  His daughter was going to Andover High School, and she told John about the teens who were sleeping in their cars.  They were homeless.  John went on to discover many more teenagers who were homeless.  He shared the story last Sunday of a woman who slept in a tent for two years.  One morning she woke up with her hair frozen to the ground. 

The people of Chain of Lakes Church want to be part of a movement that ends homelessness among teenagers.  We have already helped in many ways.  In April 2014 we did a large benefit breakfast for Tiger Take-Out—the food shelf at Blaine High School.  Last October we helped organize Box City—an event where high school students and adults slept in boxes on the tennis courts of Blaine High School to publicize teen homelessness.  People from Chain of Lakes staffed Tiger Take-Out last school year, and we will this year too.  Every Monday people organized and stocked the shelves with food, and kept the food shelf clean and organized.  This past summer our congregation provided 14 Survival Bags for Hope 4 Youth.  A Survival Bag costs about $150 to put together.  It’s like a soft piece of luggage that a teenager can put their belongings as they sleep outside.

During worship at 10:30 a.m. we will look at how our faith can help us blast-off as people of God.  I’m preaching on my favorite passage of the Bible—Acts 2.  At the end of the sermon I will share special resources for people to take home with them.  Everyone who buys a ticket and comes to worship will be put in a drawing for a $100 Cub gift card.

Come to worship at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday and learn how you can blast-off in your faith.   Then come to the carnival and help Hope 4 Youth. 


I can’t imagine any other place I’d rather be than in worship at 10:30 at Chain of Lakes and then the carnival!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Helping homeless teenagers at Hope 4 Youth


This past Monday I had the privilege of joining Pam Van Meter and Jolene Altrichter from Chain of Lakes Church dropping off 14 Survival Bags at Hope 4 Youth in Anoka.  A survival bag is like a soft carry-on piece of luggage that has items that homeless teenagers will use as they sleep outside this summer.  Pam and Jolene and others from our new church’s Outreach team have worked the past two months to encourage folks to contribute to these Survival Bags.

I’m just amazed that our new congregation, and with some help from folks from Valley Presbyterian, were able to collect materials for 14 Survival Bags.  Each bag costs about $150 to put together. 

The folks at Hope4Youth were practically in tears when we dropped off the bags.  They had run out and didn’t know what they were going to do when a teen needed help.  Words can’t adequately share the impact all of your donations have made to homeless teenagers in Anoka County. 

Very proud to be part of a faith community who so generously shares with those who need help!  Yay, God!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Presbytery meeting

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area met for their July meeting on Tuesday, July 14 at Associated Church in Owatonna.  I enjoyed the lovely drive from the north Metro to Owatonna, relishing the beauty of the lush land.  I set up a table before the meeting to talk to folks about Sundaes on Wednesday at Chain of Lakes.  During the summer our new congregation worships on Wednesdays.  We enjoy a meal at 6:00 p.m. followed by worship and ice cream sundaes.  Anyone who is out of town on the weekends is very welcome to worship with us.  At the table next to me were folks from Houses of Hospitality.  I enjoyed talking to them and learning more about this important young adult ministry.

After a rousing worship service and challenging sermon by Dr. Paula Sanders, the Presbytery received officer reports.  This was the first opportunity for Dr. Jeff Japinga to speak to the Presbytery as the Designated Executive Presbyter.  He shared that in the next 120 days he is going to focus on four areas.  First, he intends to earn trust by getting to know people in the Presbytery.  Second, he is going to commit himself to congregational vitality and church leadership.  He shared that the Presbytery is only as strong as its congregations and leaders.  Third, he is going to help the Presbytery begin to envision its future and where God is calling us.  Part of this is developing clear parameters around the use of funds the Presbytery has received in gracious separation agreements.  Fourth, he wants to give intentional energy and thinking to communication.  

I found it refreshing to hear our Executive Presbyter lay out his intentions and direction. 

He has one more week of teaching at Mc Cormick Seminary and then will be able to give his full attention to Presbytery work.  The talk he shared for the Presbytery can be read at:  http://files.ctctcdn.com/17207f49001/4b1d6934-3e3c-473a-b3db-8f1f6f4ef86e.pdf

In his remarks Thomas Ruter (chair of the Presbytery Leadership Team) shared that a Task Force of the Presbytery Leadership Team is developing a proposal for parameters around the use of funds the Presbytery has received in gracious separation agreements.   I missed the first part of Tom’s presentation as I had to take a phone call, so I’m unsure who is serving on this Task Force.  No written information was shared about this.

During the Stated Clerk’s report Barbara Lutter shared a detailed report on the law suit with the Presbyterian Church in Eden Prairie.  She shared that lawyers from each side are sharing discovery requests.  Thousands of pages of records have been gathered by the Administrative Commission.  The next step is depositions that hopefully will take place before the end of the summer.  A mediator has been chosen to work through an alternative dispute resolution.  She shared that the Administrative Commission hopes and prays for a negotiated settlement.  Unfortunately the process could be lengthy and expensive.  The Administrative Commission has set up a web page about the case that is on the Presbytery web site.  The link is: http://www.presbyterytwincities.org/EPPCAC

Luke Roske-Metcalfe shared a very detailed report about research he helped lead regarding Latino Ministry.  The report is worth a reading.  It can be found at on pages 23-26 of the Presbytery minutes: http://www.presbyterytwincities.org/PresbyteryMeetingInfo

In her report Rochelle Letourneau shared that a Task Force has been formed from the Committee on Congregational Vitality which will help with the implementation of the new structure of the Presbytery.  People serving on this Task Force were asked to stand. 

Al Zdrazil shared that the Advocates for Integrity in Ministry as proposing a change to the sexual misconduct policy of the Presbytery.  His report can also be found in the Presbytery minutes.

The meeting concluded at about 6:20.  The leaders of the Associated Church treated us to a wonderful meal.  I enjoyed visiting with my friends from Community Presbyterian in Plainview and hearing how the Spirit is alive in that congregation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Inside Out

This past Sunday evening I saw “Inside Out” with my two favorite red heads at the East Bethel theater.  I had heard so many favorable comments about the movie that I couldn’t wait to find the time to watch it.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Most of the story is set inside the brain of Riley, a 11 year old girl.   Five characters play five different emotions—joy, sadness, fear, disgust and anger.  The emotions live in a headquarters inside of Riley’s mind.  The characters control how Riley responds to situations.  They create core memories that reflect her personality.  These core memories power five islands that reflects a different aspect of her personality.  Riley’s memories are color-coded by one of the five emotions and then sent to  short-term or long-term memory or are forgotten in an abyss.

The movie was able to go very deep in explaining the brain in a way that was stunning and entertaining.  As I was watching I kept thinking that whoever came up with these ideas to explain the brain was brilliant.  

Oh—and the movie had a plot.  When Riley’s parents move the family from Minnesota to San Francisco Riley’s emotions fight each other to determine who will be in control.  As Riley introduces herself at her new school in San Francisco, sadness fights joy.  The two knock themselves out of headquarters leaving fear, anger, and disgust in charge. 

Riley is thrown into an emotional funk—some might call it depression or even teenage angst. 

Inside of Riley joy and sadness have to figure out how to get back to headquarters.  It seemed like taking the yellow brick road to Oz—lots of danger and scary parts to the journey.

Pixar is part of Disney, so it doesn’t take a person with a college degree to know if joy and sadness make it back to headquarters.  But on the journey joy discovered that she needed sadness.  Some of Riley’s most joyous memories started with sadness. 

Inside Out is a movie that appeals to all ages.  On the same day I had my mind blown away by the movie’s depiction of the brain, many children in the theater were laughing about the animation.

I could quibble about why joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust were chosen for the five emotions.  We certainly experience more emotions than this.

The wider public has certainly embraced the movie.  According to Wikipedia as of this past Sunday the movie has grossed $266 million.  Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 98 percent based on hundreds of reviews.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Will Bowen coming to Chain of Lakes Church

Tomorrow Will Bowen is flying in from Kansas City to speak at Chain of Lakes Church.  We still have a few tickets available for his presentation, which is at 6:30 p.m.  The following is a modified version of a Press Release we sent out

In an effort to help people cut back on their complaints, Chain of Lakes Church has invited nationally known speaker Will Bowen -- the author and driving force behind the complaint-free life -- to speak at an educational event at the church Wednesday, June 24, at 6:30 p.m. at its new home at 10130 Davenport St. NE in Blaine.

Bowen is the author of two international bestselling books: “A Complain Free World -- How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life you Always Wanted” and “Complaint Free Relationships -- How to Positively Transform Your Personal, Work and Love Relationships.” The latter has sold more than 1.5 million copies.

“As we thought about helping our community, we came to the conclusion that helping people complain less would be very beneficial,” said Pastor Paul H. Moore, organizing pastor of Chain of Lakes Church. “Earlier this year I shared his complaint-free ideas with our congregation and received a very enthusiastic response. Now we want to share this message with the wider community.”

Bowen has been featured on Oprah, NBC’s Today Show, ABC Evening News, and CBS Sunday Morning. Bowen’s “complaint-free” concept has also been the subject of stories in many national magazines and newspapers. Additional information about Bowen can be found online at http://www.willbowen.com.

During his presentation, Bowen will share tips and strategies to help people diminish complaining in their life.

“Most of us would admit that we live in a culture where people complain a lot,” Moore said.  “And most of us would like to diminish the amount of complaining. Having Will Bowen come to Blaine is one way we can help our wider community complain less.”

Tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased at the door, or on-line at http://www.colpres.org/community-event.htm

The Chain of Lakes band will offer music. Ice cream sundaes will be served after the event.  Child care will be available.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Friendship and Charleston

Yesterday I finished a sermon series called, "My Favorite Story."  We asked people from Chain of Lakes to share their favorite Bible stories and then interviewed people whose stories we chose.  Yesterday we looked at the story of Jesus and Peter on the beach.  At the end of the sermon I talked about how this story related to the horror of what happened in Charleston.  The video of the sermon can be found at: https://vimeo.com/131446277

One of the most important questions we will ever answer is the question, “who is Jesus?’  Our answer is important because what we say and believe about Jesus along with the intensity of our belief determines a lot about who we are as people.

It’s a hard question because how do we adequately describe in language, the Son of God.

Ever since Jesus entered the world people have wrestled with this question, “who is Jesus.” 

We have all sorts of titles for Jesus—Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Savior, Jesus is Messiah, Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is Suffering Servant, Jesus is King, Jesus is the Son of God.  These titles are true.  But unless we can get underneath the title and be clear about what they mean the title is really not that significant. 

On occasion Jesus asked his followers, “who do you say that I am?”  He wanted to know how people viewed him.  He wants to know how we view him.

Today I’m going to share an answer to the question, “who is Jesus.”  By the end of this sermon I’m going to give you two things.  I’m going to give you a one word response to the question, “who is Jesus?’ and I’m going to show how this response can impact the world. 

With that introduction let me share that I’m completing a four week sermon series today called, “My Favorite Story.”  A while ago I asked you to share your favorite Bible Story.  Many of you did.  For the past four weeks we’ve gone deep into each of the four stories.  The AIM of this series is simple—we want every person to have a grasp of the story and go deep into its meaning. 

We started the series by looking at the story of Mary and Martha.  This was a story that Lena Truong chose

We continued by looking at the story of Ruth.  This was a story that Paula Blair chose

Last Sunday Pastor Kate preached about Esther. 

Today we’re going to look at the story of Jesus and Peter on the beach.  This is Chris Audet’s favorite story.

To help us go deep into the story we’re sharing video interviews of each person who chose the story. 

I’ve written a devotion for you that revolves around the theme of friendship.  I encourage you to use it this week.  I think you’ll be blessed as you use it each day.  In the middle is a place to take notes.  I believe God might say something to you in this sermon that you’ll want to write down.  On the back is our congregation’s prayer requests. 

Let’s review the story of Jesus and Peter on the beach.  We only find the story in John’s gospel.  The story took place a few weeks after Jesus’ resurrection.  Seven disciples were gathered together.  Peter told the group he wanted to go fishing.  So the seven got into a boat and went fishing.  They fished all night and caught nothing.

Just after daybreak Jesus stood on a beach.  As they were in the boat the disciples didn’t know that the man who was standing on the beach was Jesus.  Jesus yelled to the guys, “You don’t have any fish, do you?”  They yelled back, “No.”  Jesus told them to put the net on the other side of the boat.  They did.  The net became full of fish. 

The disciple who was described later as the beloved disciple recognized that the man standing on the beach was Jesus.  He told Peter.  Peter was either naked or had some undergarments on.  When Peter saw Jesus he put on some clothes and jumped in the water to swim to shore. 

When the seven disciples got to shore they saw a charcoal fire.  It had fish and bread.  Jesus told the disciples to bring some of the fish that they had caught.  The disciples had caught a large amount of fish—153.  Jesus told the disciples, “come have breakfast with me.” Jesus gave them the bread, and he gave them the fish. 

A few weeks ago I interviewed Chris Audet about the story.  I started out by asking him what he liked about the story.  He shared this clip.  It’s about ninety seconds.

for me it kind of captures a sort of a poignant and fleeting moment.  Jesus has come back from the dead.  You’ve had the big reveal.  Mary Magdalene has seen him, his mother has seen him, the disciples, Peter, and even Thomas has seen him—he’s touched his side.  There’s been a lot of that initial interaction.  This is prior to him ascending. And leaving them and then the Holy Spirit coming down.  Kind of the last moment of them having a normal—like, the guys are out fishing.  They are excited.  Peter sees Jesus coming and says—wait a minute.  That’s Jesus.  I’m going to jump off the boat and go up to him

Paul:                      Kind of like this poignant moment

Chris:                     and then.  Just the fact of them coming together and.  Jesus made breakfast for them on the beach.  Kind of like.  it’s such a beautiful picture of just their relationship as friends.  Yes--he’ll ascend to heaven.  They’ll go out and be persecuted.    All of these things that will happen afterwards.  They even hinted at that.   At what might be coming or what to expect.  That moment.  It’s such a beautiful moment of friendship 

I loved what Chris said.  It’s a beautiful picture of their relationship as friends.  It’s such a beautiful moment of friendship. 

I think the story helps us with the question, “who is Jesus.”  Jesus is our friend.

I would encourage you to write this down.  Jesus is our friend.

This idea that Jesus is our friend is certainly not a new idea and on the surface it might not seem that significant of an idea.  But if we push into it, I think we can see it’s a powerful idea.

It wouldn’t surprise me if many of us question, “how can I be a friend with God?” 

How can we be friends with something as big and awesome and impersonal as the Creator of the Universe.  How can we be friends with perfection?  the holy?

If you’re like me you know that we haven’t led a life that is perfect.  We’ve made mistakes and sins.  We’ve done things that we’re not proud of. 

Perhaps some of us feel we’ve been casual or even apathetic about God.  For some of us perhaps coming to worship depends on how we feel when we wake up on a Sunday morning.             Or perhaps when we come to church and if we’re honest we have to admit that the importance of Jesus isn’t that high. 

What’s so cool about God is even though we’ve made mistakes, even though sometimes we’re apathetic, and even though we don’t value Jesus as much as we could—Jesus still wants to be our friend.

What’s so beautiful about this story is how Jesus embraced Peter.  Rember Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.  The night before Jesus was crucified Peter denied knowing Jesus.  He denied that Jesus was his friend, he denied that Jesus was his Lord, he denied even knowing Jesus. 

Jesus was still willing to say to Peter, “come have breakfast with me.”        

The point is we don’t have to wonder whether we can be a friend with God.  Our friendship starts with God’s desire to be friends with us.  Even if we’ve messed up, or we’re at a point where we’re casual about our faith, or we know our motivations are not quite right, Jesus still wants to be our friend
           
When I interviewed Chris I discovered that he understood this dynamic of friendship.  I asked him how this story has inspired him.  This is what he said: 

I had a really interesting experience about a year ago that involved that story.  I was really struggling with, you know, where I was in my relationship with God and what was going on with my life at the time.  One of the things that always bothered me about the story at the same time that I liked it so well is that it was something that seemed so fleeting.  It was going to end so soon.  The word I got or the impression I got is it doesn’t have to end.  We can be in that intimate relationship with Jesus and have breakfast with him.    It’s a quiet moment among friends.  Not this (you know) ongoing burden or pressure to fit an expectation.  It’s just, “come have breakfast with me.”  That was really precious to me. 

Jesus wants to be our friend.  It’s as if he asks us all the time, “come have breakfast with me.”

Having breakfast with friends is so much fun.  I remember last month I had breakfast with a friend—David Maghakian.  David just retired as pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church.  We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we set up breakfast at Keys.  This breakfast was on a weekday.  And I had so much work to do that I wasn’t sure that I had time.  But when I got to Keys it became clear to me that this is where I needed to be.  David and I got caught up on our lives, we laughed a lot, we had fun with our waitress.  It was a beautiful moment of joy and fun and friendship.  Both of us were in the presence of something special.  When I reflect on that breakfast now I think, “I’d like to have a breakfast like that every day.”  We can have that breakfast every day. 

            In the interview I asked Chris about this invitation of “come have breakfast with me.” I asked him if this was a constant invitation from Jesus to us.  Chris was definitive in his answer. 
Yes.  It’s that he is Emmanuel.  He is God with us.  So in the midst of whatever we’re going through—the good, the bad, the busy, the frenetic—all the things that we’re dealing with on a day to day basis or even the extreme tragedies that happen.  He’s saying, “come away with me.” And have this time even in the midst of all this.  We can still sit down.  I’m not here to—I am here to change the world, but I’m not here to fix you.  I’m here to be with you. 

I love what Chris said about Jesus.  Jesus is not here to fix us.  He’s here to be present with us.  By experiencing that presence we can be inspired to become who we want to be and who God wants us to be. 

To say Jesus is our friend isn’t quite enough.  Let’s push into what an impact this can have on us and on the world.             

How does saying Jesus is our friend make an impact on the world?  I’ve thought about this as I’ve thought about the horrible tragedy that took place in South Carolina
           
This has been a really hard week for our country.  On Wednesday night Dylan Roof attended a Bible Study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.   A hour into the Bible Study he started shooting people.  Nine people died and all of the victims were black. 
           
This was a hate crime.  Certainly Dylan Roof was targeting African-Americans.  Emmanuel AME Church is known in Charleston has a history of standing up for the African-American community.  Dylan Roof was intentional about the race of the people he murdered.
            I’d like for us to reflect on this tragedy for a moment through the lens of friendship.  I’ve done a lot of reading since Wednesday about Dylan Roof.  He didn’t have a lot of friends.  One article said that he had African-American friends, but it’s hard for me to imagine that he had many deep conversations about race with them.  Over the past few months he’s become a loner—he’s discarded his friends.  Dylan Roof didn’t have the type of friends who steered him in a better direction. 
            What’s so amazing about this story is how many of the families of the victims responded to Dylan Roof.  Did you see what many of them said to Dylan Roof at a pre-trial hearing on Friday?  They forgave him.  It’s as if they said, “I’m willing to be your friend—you who murdered my family.” 
           
When I first read about this I have to admit there is a part of me that thought, “they didn’t really mean that.  They are just saying that.”  I think it was authentic because of their faith.  These angels—and at that moment these people were messengers of God.  These people couldn’t have said something like that unless they knew at a very deep level that Jesus was their friend. 
What they did was a supernatural act.  People just don’t naturally forgive the murderer of their family.   People can’t do that unless at the core of their being they can say that Jesus is my friend.
One final point.  Our friends reveal a lot about us.

I want to encourage us to do something.  I have a challenge.  Make a list of your closest friends.  Put five people on the list.  After you have the list ask yourself, “How many have a different skin color than you; how many will vote for a different Presidential candidate in the next election; how many don’t believe in God.”  Do these people look like me and act like me and think like me?  Or do I have some diversity in my friends.

In the age of Social Media it seems that we live in an Echo Chamber.  We make comments and then many people just echo our comments.  If our friends are only an extension of our own identity, then we need some more friends. 

I love the people of Chain of Lakes.  One reason I love you is I come into contact with people who are very different than me.  We’re not trying to create an echo chamber at Chain of Lakes.  Let me give an example.

Two weeks ago Jonathan and Judith Tse celebrated the high school graduation of their son, Fon.  It was a really busy day for my family.  Amy and Hannah were going one direction and I was going another direction.  I decided to drive to Forest Lake for Fon’s graduation party. 

SLIDE            Here’s a picture of Jonathan and Judith and Fon.

I got there a bit early.  Fon and his friends were celebrating in the lower level of his home.  They were dancing and playing loud music.  Jonathan was sitting in the garage.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to Jonathan for a while.  I went to the garage and we talked. 

We had a wonderful conversation.  Jonathan is one of the smartest people that I know.  He has a passion for the people Cameroon, his native country.  And he has ideas about how to help them.  The evening before he and many other Cameroonians had partcicipated in a fundraiser in St. Paul for a school in Cameroon.  It was fascinating to listen to Jonathan talk about this school and what a difference it was making in the lives of children.

That 45 minute conversation was one of the best conversations of my week. 

I thanked Jonathan for the conversation.  But I want to thank you—the people of Chain of Lakes for the conversation.  I would have never had that conversation if Chain of Lakes Church didn’t exist.  Our faith community has led Jonathan and me to be in relationship with each other.    

We’re not always going to be a small church.  But today we’re a small church.  But even in our small church we have people from many different countries—Cameroon, Mexico, Ghana, Haiti.    

We need this diversity.  We need communities where people will cross lines—whether it’s racial or political or class lines—to develop friendships.  The church is not called to be an echo chamber.  We are a community where strangers become friends. 


Friends, our friendships have resulted because Jesus was willing to say on a beach—come have breakfast with me.  That invitation has changed everything.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Senseless Violence

Today Jeff Japinga shared some beautiful words about the tragedy that took this past week in South Carolina.  Jeff is the new Transitional Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area.  I think these words are worth sharing.  In addition to praying for all who are grieving what took place, I am praying that we can create a world where such senseless acts of violence never take place.

"I had written some thoughts on Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, due to be released today, and on the strident pre-release commentary from both sides and our role as Christians in the public square. That can wait. Wednesday evening, a gunman opened fire during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Nine are believed dead, including the church's pastor. Emanuel AME is the oldest AME church in the South, a presence in Charleston since 1816, when AfricanAmerican members of Charleston's Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over burial grounds.

Why this happened is still speculation; motives are murky; long-term lessons are premature. What we do know is that today, we stand in solidarity and prayer with our brothers and sisters at Emanuel AME, cognizant of their grief and pain, and asking for the Spirit to be closely present in this time.

I encourage you to take time in prayer, today, tomorrow and in worship on Sunday, to hold the congregation of Emanuel AME and the families of the dean in your prayers, and in doing so to hold in prayer all those around the world who are persecuted and harmed because of their faith."

Jeff Japinga Transitional Executive Presbyter

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Happy Anniversay!

Fifteen years ago today, I stood in the chancel of First Presbyterian Church in Rochester holding the hands of a gorgeous woman.  We looked into each others' eyes and repeated an edited vow that Ruth shared with Naomi.  "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."

We've had a wonderful 15 years!  Love you always, honey!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Holy Spirit sermon


It's my experience that many of us are confused by the Holy Spirit.  I spent some time this past Sunday in worship explaining the Holy Spirit and then talking about how we can live a Spirit-led life.  Below are the two talks I gave.  They can be viewed by following the links at colpres.org.  

            People have always been confused by the Holy Spirit.  That’s why some people thought that was happening in the story was a drinking party.  Of course we know what really happened.  The Holy Spirit moved in this foundational story in Acts 2 in such a powerful way that 3,000 people were baptized.  The church was born.  It was born because of the movement of the Holy Spirit.
            To be a church we need to have a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit not only started us, it’s at the heart of Jesus.
            Today I’m completing a four week sermon series called “Caring with the heart of Jesus.”  This is a teaching series as I’ve taught you about wisdom, gentleness, compassion and the Holy Spirit—four qualities of the heart of Jesus. 
            We’re doing something a bit different in that I’m starting off by sharing content about each of these qualities.
            Then we’re singing a song.  Then I’m sharing how we can apply each quality into a situation. 
            So I want to encourage you to get out this brochure that is in the bulletin.  This week I’ve written a devotion on the Holy Spirit.  In the middle of the devotion is a place to take notes.  I believe God might say something to you that you’ll want to write down.  On this brochure you have a list of our congregation’s prayer requests. 
            Let me share right away what I’m going to do in this first talk.
SLIDE
What the Holy Spirit is not
What the Bible shares about the Holy Spirit
One place where the Holy Spirit resides
What the Holy Spirit does

When you leave Chain of Lakes today you’ll have answers to these four topics.

            One of the creeds of the church is the Apostles’ Creed.  Around the year 180 the church developed the first form of the Apostles’ Creed. 
SLIDE             I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy ______. 

            God as a ghost.  This was one of the worst descriptions of God I can imagine.  God is not a ghost.    The Holy Spirit is not the Holy Ghost.
            What is a ghos?  A ghost is this:
SLIDE                        Something covered in a white sheet with two eye holes
A ghost is scary
SLIDE
A ghost is not looking out for our well being. 
            Ninety times the King James Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a ghost.      God is not a ghost.
            It is worth knowing that the definition of the word ghost is different today than it was even 200 years ago.  Then ghost meant the living essence of a person.  It didn’t mean the spirit of a dead person who might appear to us.   
            What the Holy Spirit is not?  The Holy Spirit is not a ghost
            Second part to this.  It’s Memorial Day weekend where we remember those people who have died in service for our country.  As a church we don’t believe in war, but we certainly people who have served in the military.    
SLIDE
            What is the lowest rank of officer in the military                   Private
            What is the highest rank of officer in the military                  General

Where does the Holy Spirit rank in a relationship with God the Father or Creator and Jesus? Is the Holy Spirit a private or general?
            The Holy Spirit is God.  The Holy Spirit is just as divine as God the Father/Creator and Jesus—fully God and fully human.  The Holy Spirit is God.
            It’s appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit; it’s appropriate to talk about and talk to the Holy Spirit; it’s appropriate to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God
            It’s my experience that many are confused by the Holy Spirit.  We’re confused because at times people respond to the Holy Spirit in a way that seems strange. 
            Holy Spirit—we might think of people speaking in tongues. 
            Holy Spirit—we might think of people waving their hands or praying intensely with their eyes closed and hands out
            Holy Spirit—we might think of a televangelist putting their hand on someone and then the person fainting

            I’m not sure about the fainting, but these are legitimate expressions of the Holy Spirit.  I have many friends who speak in tongues.  Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift.  It’s a legitimate faith expression to wave hands or pray intently with our eyes closed and hands out.
            That leads us to the question, What is the Holy Spirit?  What does the Bible say?
            One way to think of the Holy Spirit is the wind of God. 
Genesis 1:1-2
SLIDE
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters
Genesis 1:1-2

Wind of God.

Wind comes from a Hebrew word, Ruah.  Ruah is translated as wind and it is also translated as the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. 

The New International Version translated the verse in this way
SLIDE
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters  Genesis 1:2

When We see the word “wind” in the Old Testament most of the time the word is ruah or Holy Spirit. 
Let me give some other example. 
            Moses and the Israelites were escaping Pharaoh.  Pharaoh and his chariots were racing to catch up with the Israelites. 
SLIDE            Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.  Exodus 14:21

            The word wind is Ruah.  Say that with me, Ruah.  Holy Spirit.
            Wind—Ruah
            Another story.  Noah was in the ark for 40 days.  What caused the water to start to evaporate and go down so that Noah and his family and the animals in the ark could leave the ark and go on dry land.
SLIDE            But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark.  And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; Genesis 8:1

Ruah is the wind.  Holy Spirit is the wind of God

            A second way to describe the Holy Spirit is the breath of God.  John 20
John 20
            Disciples were scared and had locked the door of their house
            Jesus was able to enter the house despite the door being locked
            First words of Jesus—peace be with you.
            To prove that he was Jesus, he showed them the marks on his body.
            Disciples rejoiced that Jesus was alive—that he was resurrected

SLIDE            Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ John 20:21-22

            The Holy Spirit is literally described as the breath of Jesus or the breath of God.

SLIDE
What the Holy Spirit is not
What the Bible shares about the Holy Spirit
One place where the Holy Spirit resides
What the Holy Spirit does


            One place where the Holy Spirit resides?  The Holy Spirit is everywhere, but in particular we recognize that the Holy Spirit resides within each of us.  Two weeks ago we celebrated the baptism of Miah, an infant.  A baptism is a sacrament.  It was originated by God.  We describe this as a sign and seal of grace.  In a baptism we can practically see grace and the joy that grace creates.  We also recognize that grace is sealed within a person.  A person who is baptized carries this grace with them for all of eternity.  What the person carries with them is the Holy Spirit.    The Holy Spirit is always part of us. 
            This can lead to some fun conversations.  Ever since my daughter Hannah was young my wife, Amy, and I have taught her that God is in her heart.  A very long time ago A was driving Hannah to her day care.  Hannah said that she didn’t want God inside of her anymore.  This seemed a bit strange.  Amy asked Hannah, “why don’t you want God inside of you anymore.”  Hannah said, “because my stomach hurts.” 
            That’s not the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit resides in more places than inside of us, but we believe we carry the Spirit with us.  We don’t have to do anything to bring the Holy Spirit to us.  The Holy Spirit already is present.
            Finally What does the Holy Spirit do?
            The Holy Spirit renews us.  The Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us and encouraging us to go deeper into God.  All the time the Holy Spirit is giving us hints and details about following God.  We go deeper by loving more, we go deeper by forgiving others, we go deeper by the way we share our character and the spirit.  We’re renewed. 
            If we are being held back in some part of our life, the Holy Spirit can help us.  The Holy Spirit can work through our obstacles, our sins, in ways that we can’t do by ourselves.  Say we are suffering from an addiction.  For example, say we are suffering from alcoholism.  The Holy Spirit will prompt us to go get treatment, or to join an AA group, to get help.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t do all of the work for us, but the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us. 
            Another way to say this is the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins.  Through the Holy Spirit we can come to terms with what holds us back from being complete people.  We’re nudged or encouraged to work through this part of our life.  When we are successful we can look back and say, “I’m a different person.”  We know that we couldn’t have done this without the Holy Spirit.  If you are struggling with some part of your life your recognition is often the work of the Holy Spirit. 
            Then share this pray, “Holy Spirit, help me work through that which holds me back.
            We don’t see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the results of the Holy Spirit.  Just like in a wind storm we can’t see the wind, but we can see the results of the wind.
            Finally, the Holy Spirit leads us to experience God.    Let me share an experience I had from this past week.
            As you know my wife, Amy is the Administrator of St. Joe’s by the Lake Catholic Church.  Ever since she’s had that job both of us have sung in their choir.  We go to Mass on Saturday nights and sing.  We worship here at Chain of Lakes on Sunday.  One church/two cars.
            Last week a woman, Joanne Fishbach passed away from pancreatic cancer.  She was just diagnosed a month ago.  We prayed for her family last week here at Chain of Lakes.  Joanne is a long-time member of the choir at St. Joe’s.  She was the librarian for the choir.  I decided to pay my respects by singing with the choir at her funeral which was this past Monday.
            I wasn’t the only one who came to sing.  I’m guessing that close to sixty people came to sing in the choir at the funeral.  Many—like me—were taking time off from work. 
            The service was very emotional.  It was very emotional for us who were singing in the choir.   Many times while we were singing this wave of emotion came over us.  We would tear up.  We couldn’t help it.  All of us would feel this same thing.  This was an experience of the Holy Spirit.
            We don’t need to be afraid.  The Holy Spirit is always trying to help us.  Encouraging us, nudging us, helping us.  The Holy Spirit is our friend. 
            Let’s review
SLIDE
The Holy Spirit is not a ghost
The Holy Spirit is not a lieutenant—the Holy Spirit is God
The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is
            Ruah—wind of God
            Breath of God
The Holy Spirit resides in each of us
The Holy Spirit renews us
The Holy Spirit helps us work through the worst parts of ourselves—convicts us of our sins
We have experiences of the Holy Spirit    

Talk Number 2
                In this second talk I want to share how we can live a Spirit-led life.  For time reasons I’m just sharing a bit about how this happens. 
            The best way to live a Spirit-led life is to orient ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  It’s like having a red-car focus.  A while ago leaders of Chain of Lakes watched a video about red cars.  The point of the video was when we orient ourselves to something, we see that.  Using red cars as an example, when we look for red cars we suddenly see them.  The same idea applies to the Holy Spirit.  When we orient ourselves towards the Holy Spirit we will find ourselves acknowledging and experiencing the Holy Spirit.
            How do we orient ourselves to the Holy Spirit?  One way we can do this is to pray.    Perhaps you could put a piece of paper in your pocket and every time you touch it you can pray:
SLIDE            “Holy Spirit help me be oriented to you”
            Or if you have a phone you can put an alarm on your phone and when the alarm goes off you can say this prayer.
            I’ve had many times when I’ve put an index card in my pocket.  When I put my hand in my pocket I’ll say a prayer.  Try that this week.  Write a prayer card and put it in your pocket.  When you put your hand in the pocket say a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
            A second way to live a spirit-filled life is to practice our faith.  I gave a talk about this at Starting Point called faith practices for spiritual health.  The practices are worship, prayer, service and being involved in a community (small group or the wider community)
            Let’s take worship, for example.  How does participating in worship lead us to have a Spirit-led life? 
            One of the reasons we come to worship is to have an experience of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that every time you worship you experience the Holy Spirit—God.  This experience might not be an intense experience like I had at this funeral this past week.  But somehow—whether it’s seeing someone, or singing a song that touched us, or hearing a word from a sermon, or a word from a prayer, or just feeling a connection.  We come to worship hoping for an experience of the Holy Spirit.  It’s as if we’re transported even if it’s for a short time to a different place.  When we have these experiences of the Holy Spirit we leave worship in a different place than when we came to worship.   
            Tell Kristel or me about these experiences of God you have during worship.  If you’re not having an experience of God every week, then tell us.  We’ll make changes. 
            We come to worship to experience God.  We don’t come to worship to do our duty.  WE come to worship to experience the Holy Spirit.  I encourage us to worship every week.  If we’re out of town like many people in our congregation are out of town this weekend, find a place to worship. 
            Worship is one faith practice that can help us with a Spirit-led life.  
            Two ways to have a Spirit-led life.  Pray and worship.  Service and community are just as important.
            What ultimately happens when we are led by the Spirit is we operate at a very high level as humans.             
            Think about all the emotions and thoughts that we experience during the day.  Let’s just say we are not orienting ourselves to the Holy Spirit and we’re not practicing our faith. 
            A person wakes up with a lot of thoughts going through their mind.  You don’t pray.  You have a short amount of time to get your kids ready for school or Day Care.  Your daughter spills milk on the carpet.  You erupt in anger right away.  You wonder how your child can be so dumb.  You notice the rage in your face. 
            Traffic is terrible on the way to work.  You beat yourself up for not getting a traffic app on your phone.  When someone cuts in front of you, you honk the horn and give share the longest finger at them. 
            When you get to work someone immediately tells you the most juicy piece of gossip.   You spend twenty minutes talking about this.  You get this “rush” from this gossip.  You don’t know if the gossip is true, but you like the rush.  Your boss walks by the two of you and you immediately move to your desk hoping that he didn’t notice. 
            During a break someone makes a snarky comment about God.  You say nothing.
            You get home mad because of something that has happened at work.  Your spouse does something dumb and you yell again.  Your daughter walks out of the room.  Your feel some pressure in your chest.  Your spouse goes downstairs and you don’t see your spouse for the rest of the night.  You go to bed exhausted and overrun with anxieties.
            Isn’t there a better way?  Yes!  It’s having a Spirit-led life. 
            You wake up with a lot of thoughts going through your mind.  But this day you spend ten minutes reading the Bible and praying.  Your last prayer is “Holy Spirit, help me be oriented to you.”       
            You’re very busy getting your kids off to school and day care.  Your daughter spills mile all over the carpet at the most inopportune time.  Every takes a breath to see how you are going to respond.  “Accidents happen,” you say.  You clean it up. 
            Traffic is bad on the way to work.  You still don’t have that traffic app, but you don’t beat yourself up.  You use the time to pray or listen to KTIS.  In a way you’re grateful for the traffic.
            When you get to work someone shares a juicy bit of gossip.  You smile and say, “that’s nice” and then ignore what they are saying.  You’re filling your Spirit up with something else.    
            At work someone makes a passive aggressive comment about you when you say something about your church.  They call you a goody two shoes.  It doesn’t bother you.  You say a prayer for the person.  In an appropriate way you talk about God and your church at your work site.  You’ll respect the rules of your work site, but you’ll still talk about God.  If someone says something negative about God it doesn’t bother you.  It just bounces off you.
            You come home and your spouse does something dumb.  It doesn’t bother you.  It bounces off your heart because you’re heart is filled with God.  You smile and gently suggest a way that your spouse can do better the next time.  Your spouse walks away feeling encouraged.  You go to bed with a smile on your face.  Nothing really special happened during the day, but you have this lightness that you appreciate.  You look forward to getting up tomorrow and telling God about your day.
            That’s caring with the heart of Jesus—it’s being led by the Spirit.