Posted in Life

Call Day (part 2: travel)

Today was a long travel day to St. Louis. We left our house at 7:15, picked up my in-laws and headed for Orlando International Airport. Easy drive (we do I-95 and the Beachline 528. But then it was a mob scene at security. We got through but then only got to our gate as the final boarding announcement (they called our names) was made.

After running to make the flight, we sat in the plane for an hour while they fixed a rear thruster. We finally got into the air, but I was certain we'd miss our connection in Miami. Yes, you read that right: Miami. Pretty quick flight, but rain and fog kept the pilot from seeing the runway, so we had to make another attempt. Finally landed safely, and were told they were holding our connecting flight for us. Only had to get from gate 4 to 40, and made that flight, too. But, because of rain and lightning, we didn't takeoff for another hour.

For both flights, we were in boarding group #1. We never get in group 1. But it really didn't matter. We were the last ones on the plane both times.

Got to St. Louis about 4 pm, got our bags, and they, along with some of the contents, were drenched. Got our rental car and then followed Siri's directions to our hotel. She led us to an abandoned building, but it was in sight of our real hotel.

We met Adam and Sarah at Square One Brewery and Distillery for supper. I had a very nice Irish Stout and a burger. A little dessert at their apartment, and then time to turn in.

Tomorrow, the Arch, Anheiser Busch, and the Call Service.

 

Posted in Life, Ministry

Call Day (part 1: memories)

Call Day 1986

As our family gets ready to travel to St. Louis for Call Day at Concordia Seminary, we are all excited to learn where my son Adam and his wife Sarah will be placed as their complete their studies. In this post I will reminisce about my Call Day in 1986 (exactly 27 years ago) at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN. It’s been a few years, so my recollection may be a bit fuzzy.

Lisa and I had been married for nearly two years and Adam was only three months old as Call Day approached. Our fourth year at the seminary included making Chex mix for Kroger Supermarkets, me working at Subway and Lisa doing some tutoring. The food bank helped us make ends meet with 5 lb. blocks of cheese. We were really glad when Spring arrived, since the little house we rented wasn’t very well heated. Thank goodness for that kerosene heater and a couple of labs to keep us warm.

The week before the call service, we were told that we didn’t have a placement yet. There weren’t enough calls for the graduating class, so we might have to wait until the summer before we found out where we would be going. But the day before the call service, we were told we indeed had a call. The placement process is very confidential, so we had no idea where we would be going.

On Call Day, Lisa’s family came up from Columbus. They had a doubly-vested interest that day since their son Jeff was also graduating. My family decided to take the train from Philadelphia and barely arrived in time for the service. I was singing with the Kantorei and playing trumpet in the balcony (one of the most amazing organs to play with), so when it was time for my call to be announced, I slipped into line and quickly learned we’d be going to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Coventry, Connecticut. Where the heck is that? Break out the Rand-McNally atlas. (No Google maps — this was 1986, folks). Ah-ha, just a little east of Hartford, in a beautiful rural area of the state.

As the evening progressed and called were announced, I remember one in particular. The professor announcing this one call said, “Peru…” <everyone gasped> “…Indiana” <everyone exhales>. What a great moment. The other great moment is when a certain call was announced and a very clear “Oh, s***!” was spoken. I guess that’s not where they expected to go.

I got to meet the New England District President that night, David Mulder. He was just the right man to welcome me to the district, and let me know I was not stepping into an easy situation. The last pastor at that congregation had not only been asked to resign, but had been defrocked (he was no longer able to be a pastor). Hmm, this was going to be interesting. But hey, the call came with a house! An enormous parsonage. Cool.

And just like that, we were thrust into the real world of parish ministry. (And yes, for those of you with inquiring minds, the document below was created with a typewriter!)

Call Day 1986 B

Posted in Grace, Life, Ministry

The unseen

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“We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

When I read this verse a few weeks ago, it immediately made me think of all the CSI television shows I enjoy watching, from the original to Miami to New York, as well as the Behavioral Analysis Unit of Criminal Minds. I know those shows are scripted, but I am still fascinated by the things that they observe, as well as the things that they don’t see at a crime scene. A picture that isn’t on a wall, food that’s conspicuously absent from a refrigerator, jewelry not in a box, or even a body missing from the scene of a crime. I don’t know how realistic the scripts are, but I sometimes wish I could develop the observational skills of those investigators.

So my question is: how do we focus on something we cannot see? How do we keep our eye on something that we cannot observe? How do we make sure we don’t lose sight of those things that are invisible and eternal?

When we look at each other (or ourselves in a mirror), it is easy to see errors, shortcoming and failures. It’s not so easy to see the redeemed, the forgiven and the saints. All that is only visible by faith, for God’s Word declares us to be redeemed, forgiven and the saints of God. That’s who we are! Do you believe that? Can you see that in someone else?

One of the things I’m doing each day is asking, “What didn’t I see today?” What pain, loneliness or disappointment was hidden behind a smiling face? What insecurities, fears or doubt was hidden behind a friendly greeting? It’s all there. We just don’t see those things because they’re disguised behind busyness, spirituality and the good parts of our lives revealed in public.

How can I learn to see the unseen?

Posted in Grace, Life

Flagler Beachfront Winery

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Lisa and I headed down to the beach for supper tonight, and parked right across from the Flagler Beachfront Winery just a few blocks north of the Golden Lion on A1A. We never noticed it before because it has only been open for a month or so. So we wandered in to see what they had to offer and discovered a great place to sit and have a glass of wine made right on the premises, a pint of beer (they had some craft beers on tap) and a nice cheese plate. Sitting outside on a beautiful night, the ocean had calmed from the high waves of the full moon just nights before. We’ll definitely be back to sample some more of their wines!

Posted in Ministry

Are we enabling a consumer mentality in the church?

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From time to time I have lamented the consumer mentality with which many people approach the church. This is the attitude that a spiritual service or product can be obtained from a pastor or church without having to actually connect with that church or its ministry. Families drop by the church for a baptism, confirmation, wedding or funeral, but do not engage beyond that event or milestone. I use the supermarket analogy, where savvy shoppers stop by for spiritual supplies as needed. If there is a sale or special at another church, they will not hesitate to switch.

Today I read a short but insightful article by Bobby Gruenewald in the May/June 2013 issue of Outreach Magazine about “Pastoring the Community.” He says that “The church has become a consumer good — something people shop for and evaluate based on what they and their family get out of it.” But then he adds this true and convicting observation: “In well-intentioned efforts to attract and reach people, churches start viewing people as customers. We wonder what we can teach that will resonate with them. What programs can we offer to keep them coming back?” (p. 26)

I believe it’s an accurate observation. We enable their behavior. And there’s a price to pay for that. We bring out that attitude as our sinful nature makes it all about us rather than about God or our neighbor.

It is very challenging to maintain an outward focus. We so quickly and easily slip into the “how can we grow” mode of thinking rather than a “how can we serve” approach. We want what we do to benefit us in some way, whether it’s increased membership, participation or contribution. But is that what following Christ looks like? Is that where the Gospel leads us?

How do we shift from serving ourselves to really serving those outside the church, those who need hope, light and grace?

Posted in Life, Ministry

Celebrating Administrative Professional Day!

So when in the world did this observance begin? It began as National Secretaries Day in 1952, but evolved into Administrative Professionals Day by 2000. A great day to remember the great front office people who hold it all together.

We celebrated today, with a really cool vase of almost-ready-to-bloom tulips, a card and lunch out for Marcy (not her real name), our office administrator. Truth be told, she’s worth a monthly celebration. As gatekeeper for phone calls, mail, email and walk-ins, purchaser of just about everything we need, facilities coordinator and editor and publisher of a number of publications each week, she makes the church office happen. When she’s not there, I might as well stay home. I never get anything done, because of the constant interruptions. She is definitely a special blessing for me and the church!

Posted in Uncategorized

Logs and specks

 

One Bible verse that a lot of people seem to know and like to quote is, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NLT). If you express disapproval of a certain behavior, dislike someone's attitude or speak unkindly of another person, you can almost be sure that someone will start throwing these words at you.

Does that mean Christians not allowed to express disapproval, point out obvious sin or even have an opinion? Many people would “judge” us for doing so. But Jesus was judgmental at times, especially when it came to someone who flaunted their piety, showed no mercy, and refused to believe He was the Messiah. Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel were told it was their job to warn people about sin.

So what did Jesus mean when He spoke those words?

Here are those words in context from Matthew's gospel:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 NLT).

If you're going to point out someone's sin, be prepared to have your sin addressed, too. Don't be a hypocrite and pretend you're better than someone else. Come clean about your own “log” (sin) and need for God's grace and forgiveness. Then you can talk about the “speck” that someone else needs to deal with.

The law of God, which does specify right and wrong behavior, shows us our sin and condemns us. It makes us aware of our need for a Savior, and drives us to Him for forgiveness. That's why we point out sin. Not to condemn, but to proclaim the gospel.

The important question is, “What's your motivation?” Are you expressing disapproval to make someone look bad? To make yourself look good? Or to proclaim Christ?