A New President Emerges

“Well, hello there Mr. President.” These are five words I hadn’t bargained on hearing when I joined my church’s council two years ago, but that is just what happened. I wanted to be more than a participating member of my church, and to have a peek under the hood. I’m up for the challenge and there is a lot of challenge this year. We are looking at a near complete restructuring of our church org chart, bringing in a few new positions like someone to lead youth ministry and probably adding a Parrish Administrator. We have a huge chunk of property we own behind our building that has sat largely undeveloped for the better part of the congressional existence, less a community garden that we need to start moving on. There is also a rather large constitutional revision that has been completed for a while that had to be pushed back when our senior pastor retired. That’ll be a big vote. I also couldn’t forget that we have technology needs that need to be addressed as well as buying new musical equipment, a buy that will likely be a significant purchase. Hands down, this is an exciting time in our house of worship.

Spiritual Warfare
I don’t suppose that everyone is on the same page with this topic; depending on one’s beliefs, and how much study has been given to the topic, folks can be across the board. But I’m one who believes that it exists and a good friend of mine said last week, “When you put your foot forward in Christ’s name, you can bet you’ll get a punch in the gut.” What a great reminder that I need to continually pray for our council, pastor, and if I get around I’ll pray for myself too.

Numbers and I have hate/hate relationship. I now have the joy of again looking at them as well as interpreting them. Yay. Our treasurer is totally awesome though, and I have an ally! I love people who can count and don’t hold that over me.

Un-happy Customers
I know that a congregation isn’t any different from any other body of people; there will be disagreements. I’ve had several people tell me that others will not be happy with some decisions regardless of the outcome. Great. I’m actually not too worried about that. The upside to this is that my door is always open, and I make a point of letting folks know that. Besides it isn’t my vote, it’s our vote. My only job is to facilitate the conversation, and count the yes and no votes.

It’s a joy
This is a real joy, so far anyway. I also believe that if God didn’t want me in this position then I wouldn’t be there. It is therefore a joy. I’m looking forward to serving in a different way. How about you? Do you find joy in the way you serve God?

A New Bible

New NASB Bibles

My new NASB Bibles in full effect

I bought a new Bible. My first Bible was given to me by a friend in college, and it is awesome. It’s an NIV study Bible that has a soft burgundy red cover with gold on the pages, and my name pressed into the front. It has been marked up pretty well over time, now some 22 years old. The funny thing is that I stopped reading it. I’m not sure why, but I did. I was reading online that the NIV was a loose translation, more specifically it wasn’t a direct translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, and I felt I was ready for something meatier. After reading about different translations I’d settled on one of two, the NASB or no other translation. I am really interested in reading a translation that will, “adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures.” as the forward states. It feels like a more grown up version of the Bible.

I wandered into the bookstore looking for a big NASB study Bible and came up with not a big one, but a small one. I mean near microscopic. I have several friends old enough they can’t read it without glasses. I really wanted that translation and being somewhat impulsive I plopped down $20 and I was off the races. The leather is baseball glove supple while the pages are nanometer thin, thus the sound of turning a page would surely bother anyone in a library. I am an underlining fool, so with mechanical pencil in hand, I got after it by re-underlinging all the verses I’d done so with in my old NIV. My hand cramped, but it is worth it. This little NASB sits by my bed, and I read it in the mornings. I was happy but now missed the study notes, and surely the NASB has better notes than the NIV, right? It was time to go to another bookstore to see what I could find.

After a few minutes browsing I’d met my new big-boy Bible, a shiny, black, leather-bound, hard back MacArthur Study Bible. This baby has chrome wheels, four-on-the-floor, God-powered verbiage that lit me up! It even came with directions to register it. I guess any self-respecting awesome Bible publisher worth their salt would do that. I gladly registered, and then read the directions. That’s right. Directions. Opening the book about mid way and working toward the front and then the back, one needs to run their fingers along the spine to help separate the pages. It takes a while mind you, but it is worth it. I don’t know what that worth is yet, but I did it anyway because I’d never done that for any book before, and certainly none of my e-books. Don’t put a cover on this bad boy because the oil from your hands conditions the leather. There is also a recommendation that one not use highlighters because of bleed-through, so I don’t. I do however have a pen with notes scribbled all over the place, while the more meaningful a verse is, the more underlining I do. It’s looking pretty awesome, but now I’m underlining two new Bibles, not just one. My left hand has curled into mush from all the underlining and note jotting.

So what is all this covetousness about? Why am I treating my Bibles like dirty work trucks on one hand, and like fine collector cars on the other? It’s a great analogy but I don’t even really like cars, not like that anyway. It is however all the word of God in those books, and I think God wants us to mark his stuff up so we can remember what He said – that is the work truck analogy. While the beautiful pages, leather-bound conditioning, fingers on the spine, register this Bible stuff is the collector car of the analogy; it is a really nice book. My notes work to my favor because I’m forgetful, and frankly there is a lot to forget in the Bible (did you just feel a bit guilty when you read that?). Lastly, and perhaps the most important reason I do this is because one day I won’t be around, and I’d like my children to remember that their old man loves the Lord, and they should too. Reading my notes may or may not help them remember me fondly, but they won’t be able to think I didn’t enjoy spending time reading and studying, and that is important. Plus I’d like to hang out with them when it is all said and done, ya know?

I also want them to know what is important. All the books are underlined in some fashion. Take creation, that is important to know so there is a ton underlined in Genesis and Exodus, too. I nailed down the Psalms and Proverbs while the gospels are a no-brainer as are the epistles. You get the idea. In all I’m quite satisfied with my purchases and it actually works out perfectly. Each of my kids can fight over which one’s they want, and should my wife outlive me, she can have one too. In the mean time, I’m going to read some more, study some more, and pray some more using my biblical black Ferrari. Until next time.

The Immature Apostles – A Fictional Account of How They Certainly Did Not Behave Before the Storm

I have an imagination that occasionally needs to be fed, and a sense of humor that is usually not far from the surface of my day-to-day interactions with people. I got thinking one day after reading Mark 4:39 what might have transpired on the boat between the time they set sail and the calming of the storm. You will have to forgive my taking liberty with the gospel of Mark, as I’m not certain I should be putting words in the mouth of Jesus or the Apostles, but here I sit having done just that. With a sense of humor in a world that is at times all too serious, I offer what most certainly did not transpire before the storm hit. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…

The Immature Apostles

As the day wore on Jesus began to tire, suggesting he and the Apostles head across the sea. “Hey guys, listen up. I’m beat, the sun is going down, and I think I’ve finished the job here. Let’s head across to the other side.”

Nodding with fan-boy agreement the Apostles set course. Deciding it was time to turn in for the night, Jesus stood extending his arms over his head stretching his tired, aching body. With arms over head, a man from a near by boat saw Jesus, mistaking his stretch as a “V” for victory, shouted above the waves, “Victory will be yours!”

The message lost in the water’s expanse, John shouted, “What?! We can’t hear you!”

Unable to hear either, the exuberant boater held a hand to his ear, shook his head, and shrugged. James jabbed John’s rib-cage with a bony elbow, “Speak up little man. Dude can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

More forcefully this time John yelled “I SAID, WE CAN”T HEAR YOU!”

Now the other Apostles on the boat, tired and irritable, began to get annoyed with John who wouldn’t let the matter go. In particular Judas, who shot John a nasty look and snarled, “Hey listen, would you keep it down? That guy can’t hear a word you are saying, but we sure can!”

Jumping into the conversation while still stretching, Jesus replied, “He said victory will be mine. It’s a nice gesture, really. He’s right you know, victory will be mine.” as his torso twisted and turned.

Offering a reaction akin to having struck gold, the Apostles all laughed and began dancing around, chest-bumping, and high-fiving each other, when Jesus shot back, “Would you guys grow up! In the end, we…meaning me…will be victorious. Until then there is no excuse to get silly. How about a little less clowning; this is serious business.”

Feeling a little ashamed with his head hung low, Bartholomew said, “You’re right. Jesus, we should know better.”

Simon shoved him saying, “Hey Bart! Don’t you talk like that!”

“What? What did I say? Wait. Did you just call me ‘Bart’?”

Clearing the air in a matter of fact way, Simon offered, “You said, ‘Jesus, we should know better;’ you can’t use his name like that.”

A little annoyed Jesus said “Hello Simon! For starters, don’t talk about me like I’m not here, remember, I’m everywhere. I’m God. Secondly, he used my name as a noun not an adjective. I can see how you’d get confused with this…look fellas, I’m tired. Would you all just keep it down while I try to get some rest? I’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” chuckling he continued, “If you were smart you’d get some rest too. You’re gonna need it.”

Thadaeus inquired Jesus, “What is that supposed to mean?”

“I’ll tell you more later but now I’m tired, and frankly, the way you are all acting I’m not going to get all holy with you for a while.”

“Okay. Thanks Jesus.” The Apostles quieted as they settled down to the peaceful sounds of the creaking hull, and gentle waves slapping the sides of the boat.

Moments later came the muffled voice of Thadaeus, “Good night Simon.”

“Good night Thad.”

Thadaeus continued, “Good night Drew. By the way Simon, my name is Thadaeus.

Cutting Thadaeus off, Andrew said, “Hey Thad, my name is ANDREW!

Now angry, Jesus rolled over, “Will you all please be quiet! Seriously, if there is one thing I’ll say that isn’t in parable, you’ve all got to knock it off! Does that register with you?” Jesus, mumbled to himself, “Oy Vey, new Apostles.”

“Sorry Jesus. We’re all a little tired.” Phillip patted Jesus on the shoulder and promised that he and the others would behave.

“You are forgiven, Phillip. I’ll see you in the morning.” and Jesus returned to his slumber.

Mathew, winning the right to steer the boat when they all cast lots, started strutting about looking more chicken than victor. Though his distress became more evident as he’d never captained a boat before, Peter offered to show him how to steer, “Just follow that star. If you need to go left, turn right. If you need to go right, turn left.”

“Whoa partner! I worked in the tax office stealing people’s mon…I mean collecting taxes. I’ve never done any work like this before. I have no idea what you just said. So I turn left to go right, and vice versa? No wonder you fisherman-folk are so weird. You do everything backwards!”

“Listen, if you want me to take the second shift tonight you’d better be nice to me, or you’ll end up having to dock this boat on your own in the morning. Do you know how embarrassed Jesus would be if you beached the boat and got us stuck? I think Jesus would be a little miffed don’t you? Plus, a sinking boat doesn’t help the mystique he’s trying to build. If you want that responsibility then keep pushing me, you’ll see what happens.”

Pondering the thought of having to dock the boat in front of all those people was enough to get Mathew thinking clearly. “Fine. I’m sorry. You have to admit this whole blindly-following-Jesus thing is tough for us all. Intriguing, but tough. By the way Jesus doesn’t need to build a mystique. Remember, he’s God.”

“What ever Matt, just steer the boat.”

“Okay. And by the way Peter, the name is Mathew, not Matt.”

“Okay Mathew. Have it your way. Just don’t sink us.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t. If anything exciting happens I’ll tell you about it in the morning.”

“Spare me your stories; write a book instead.”

“Hmm, good idea. Maybe I’ll do that.”

The novice captain began to steer the boat as Jesus and the Apostles dozed as the sun set with open, empty water ahead. Boredom began to set in. Making large, sweeping turns left, then right, then back again, the other boats following dodged the newly crowned Captain Mathew and his nautical miscues with bewilderment. Put off by the boat Jesus was traveling in, one man commented to another, “Who is driving that boat? They must be drunk!”

Steeped in passing the time away with his wide turns, Mathew was unaware of the waters increasing volatility. Pitching up and down they rode the increasingly large swells causing first Thomas then Andrew to wake; both men succumbing to sea sickness. Peter soon came laughingly to his brothers aide, “Having a tough time there, tiger?” The ashen look on Andrew’s face showed things weren’t going well; he looked right through his brother before getting sick all over Peter’s tunic. Peter, a known sympathy puker, reacted in kind. It was an awful sight, and a terrible mess. The games had quickly come to an end as the green and yellowed-hued Apostles slid around the boat questioning their own mortalities.

All worried and quite sick, the Apostles wondered aloud as to what they should do. All the while Jesus slept peacefully at the stern. Wiping his face with his sleeve, Peter said to the others, “Well guys, I’m scared. This boat is filling with water, which by my estimation means we’re going to sink. Do any of you in your infinite wisdom have any bright ideas?”

“Judas, wake Jesus up and ask him what we should do.” said Andrew.

“I’m not going to wake him up! You wake him up!”

Andrew fired back, “Phil, you wake him up. You were the one he forgave earlier. He’s not going to get mad at you.”

“No, no, no, no. For starters, my name is Phillip, not Phil, and I just got back into his good graces. You’re crazy if you think I’m going to-” before Phillip could finish his sentence a wave crashed over him knocking him squarely into the others. Time was running out. In agreement of a joint effort, all the Apostles sloshed over to Jesus to wake him.

Bartholomew, gently tapping the shoulder of Jesus to no avail was forcefully shoved out of the way by Peter, “Jesus! The storm is going to sink us!”

Rolling over to see the faces of 12 scared, sickly men staring at him, Jesus had the look of an angry father whose children had found his last nerve. He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. “Look, why is it you’re all so scared? Do you have no faith in me at all?” With those words he surveyed the astonished men, then the quiet sea. “I’m going back to bed. Given what just happened I’m pretty sure there won’t be any more reason to wake me again. Am I right? Good then, we all understand each other.”

With that Jesus sat, the water squashing as he settled into the sopping cushion. He rang the water from his robe, shook out his hair, and gave one more look at the Apostles, winked, and went back to sleep.

Peter whispered to the others, “Wow. That guy just stopped a storm dead in it’s tracks. I wonder if we ought to pay more attention to who he says he is,” then politely asked Mathew, “Do you, uh, want me to take over and steer?”

“Yes Peter, that would be nice. Why don’t you do that.” The rest of the Apostles stood in stunned silence, marveling at what they had just witnessed.

I have always found it rather odd that the Apostles worked so hard to try to get it right when Jesus was with them, yet they didn’t.  It isn’t until the book of Acts that we see them really become bold men of God, blessed with the Holy Spirit. Again, if I have offended I certainly didn’t intend to, but I just couldn’t help myself. I hope you enjoyed. Until next time.

No Dog Show For Me – Maundy Thursday

This post has two very distinct sections, one for my immature self, and another for my more reverent, grown-up self. I think there is value in both, and I hope you enjoy!

Setting: My Lutheran Church, Maundy Thursday

Maturity Level: 0
Yesterday was Maundy Thursday, the day we remember the Last Supper, and the day we remember Jesus being sold out. I have been a Christian since the spring of 1993, a member of our church for at least 11 years, and until last night I had never been able to attend the Maundy Thursday service. Unbeknownst to me, Maundy Thursday liturgy invites people to have their feet washed, and in return you wash the feet of another. This is in reference to John 13:1-17, an amazing piece of the Bible where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. No. I would have nothing to do with this observance. For those that know me, you probably know that I’m not the guy to take his shoes off at your home. I don’t do it. To me, even with socks on, the idea is really gross. If you have a home that is so coveted that you require guests to take their shoes off, there is a good chance I won’t be coming over again, and a good chance I won’t be invited again. There is a great oral history from my family that backs this up, my wife, and greatest critic, will gladly open that can of worms at any cocktail party, shoes on of course. I might be in the minority, but unless there is snow or mud on my shoes, perfectly acceptable reasons to remove your shoes in another’s home, it isn’t happening for me.

Even Jesus saying, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” wasn’t enough for me to strip down for a dog show. If you’ve never heard the phrase, “My dogs are barkin!” that is a reference to feet; stinky, smelly, dirty feet. Really? You want me to take off my shoes and my socks, trod around the carpeted church, let someone else wash my dirty feet, and then have me reciprocate by washing someone else’s dirty feet? Do you not see the sanitation issues we are dealing with here? I’ve been in hundreds of locker rooms after all manner of games being dirty to the 100th degree, and the one constant for everyone was shower shoes. That’s right, even in locker rooms where virtually nothing is sacred, feet are coveted. I can safely assume that even a guy like Alex Rodriguez has a pair of shower shoes, they are just more expensive, and prettier than all the rest. Two movies immediately come to mind when it comes to references of the foot, Forrest Gump and Bull Durham. I wasn’t taking my shoes off last night, even for Jesus. That ought to set the stage for my feelings on the matter. People joke that it would take an act of God to get them to do something, well I had the act of God, and I curled my toes even tighter to make sure not even my good friend Todd, sitting behind me, could remove them.

Maturity Level: Somewhere between 5-7, I think I’m getting better.
Because my son finished communion class he and the other third graders and their families, were invited to communion first this evening. We sat towards the front, another church no-no for me. That proximity to the wash basins gave me an Eagle-eye view of the foot festivities. If I’m being honest, and this post is about being honest, I squirmed in my seat for the first several minutes. Watching all those feet walk by, toes wiggling, then into the basin, all those hands all over them.  The water had to have been cold, I can’t think of a bigger shock to the system than to have cold water poured over my feet, and then have someone I shake hands with each Sunday grab hold and start scrubbing. I’m ticklish, I mean really ticklish. How would that look when I bust out laughing at the exact wrong time during church? If there was a sure-fire way to lose what little credibility I have when it comes to theology, this would have been it.

But as the people, my wife and two children included, took off their shoes and dove in, something began to change in me. One older husband and wife in particular moved something in me. He struggled to stand after his feet had been cleaned, and struggled to kneel before his wife. Odd as the entire experience was, seeing a couple that have been married for perhaps 50-60 years quickly became a beautiful moment, it was gentle and caring. It was then that my reverent me, overcame my immature me. I understood. Jesus had come to serve sinners, and in one act that defied logic, and station, the Son of the trinity knelt to wash the very feet of those he came to save. I was moved to tears, not big sobbing tears, but the kind I’m really good at swallowing back. At this time, my daughter came back asking if she could go again, and my son said, “Dad, that was awesome! The water was so warm!” WAIT! WHAT? THEY USED WARM WATER? So this experience is meant to remember Jesus humbling himself to the very people he is ruler of, and they used warm water to pull it off? I think I need to ask for forgiveness, and reconsider where I stand on this issue.

Maturity Level: 10
I now feel quite badly that I missed the whole foot washing because I was shown the meaning of the experience, and I understood. That is a victory for God I suppose, but the next experience of the service brought me back to the reality of why were there. I know the story of the Last Supper, Jesus being betrayed by Judas, and his crucifixion; but I’d never seen it communicated in such a manner. As communion finished, and a prayer offered, the third graders, my son included, and other church elders, began to strip the altar of everything. One by one, each piece was removed in total silence. The altar now bare, the lights were turned off one, by one, by one. The pastors left together, and the congregation followed suit. The reverent silence was deafening with the remembrance of when Jesus was betrayed. It was heavy in the room. It permeated the air.

As we walked from the narthex, still silent, the church now mostly dark, we walked outside quietly and were faced with a brilliant sunset full pastel oranges, reds, and pinks. Dark clouds filled the foreground. I felt two emotions: one to cry, and the other to shout, “THAT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME!” As my maturity level was at def-con 5, I chose to shed a tear instead. I now have under my belt a completely different level of “knowingness” about the Last Supper, one that I hadn’t been confronted with before. Today is Good Friday, remembering the death of Jesus on the cross for you, and for me, and for everyone.  It is a good day as Easter Sunday will be different for me from now on because I will take my Maundy Thursday experience with me, and truly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Maturity Level: 0
I’m reminded of the (perhaps) fictional Gauls, a warrior people who didn’t like being conquered too much. As legend has it, when baptized in a river or lake, they would leave one arm out of the water so they had the opportunity to take up their weapons one day, and fight again. So to it is with me, or rather my feet. I won’t be taking up arms anytime soon, but I will take up my feet, and run from my foot issue, except when it comes to Maundy Thursday. Have a Good Friday everyone, and a blessed Easter.

Umm, Jesus, It’s Windy Out Here.

Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I’ve now taken a few stabs at this post because there is so much to say about the idea of peace. My conclusion after spending a good deal of time reflecting on the topic as well as my life, is that peace is illusive. It’s a slippery bugger; and while some find it, many lose grasp rather quickly. My belief for this explanation is that we live in a broken world. There is no need to dig deeply into examples of brokenness as they are plentiful.

I find it almost comical the difference we see in the disciples between the four gospels and from the book of Acts on. In the gospels we see these motley fools making great claims, swearing allegiance to Christ and his teachings yet we see them fail over and over. One example that I looked at is found in the book of Mark, 4:39 in the King James Bible. Recounted here is a story of Jesus calming the fierce storm while traveling by boat. The annoyance of being awoken from his sleep by the disciples who are certain they will all succumb to the powerful storm ask Jesus what they should do, “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” There are a lot of lessons in this story, one of which is about faith, but there is another that is painfully obvious, so much so that I didn’t see it until I read the passage for the umpteenth time. The lesson learned is that peace can be had should we remember our faith, exercising the God-given right to it as followers of Christ. Add to the previous statement a list of qualifiers demonstrating the broken world in which we all live, we see that peace is all the harder to find and keep. Until the end of the age, we will always have conflict, thus the elusiveness of peace. I would summarize with a simple statement: peace is there for us, free for the taking as followers of Christ, but because we live in a broken world, peace will always be found on a slippery slope.

The disciples, missing an opportunity to exercise their faith, get a scary object lesson about faith and peace from Jesus on that boat. It is my belief that they intellectually believed in what Jesus was doing and despite their witness to his miracles, hadn’t gotten it yet. Fast forward to the rest of the Bible, and we see these same men who stumbled their way through the gospels become bold, unstoppable men of faith starting in the book of Acts. Their lives, however, were everything but peaceful. Their job was to spread the good news of Christ, and in doing so died for their belief. Peaceful it was not. That speaks volumes to me.

I love a good sermon at church or on the radio, I love to listen to people of faith discuss the word. I listen to the likes of Alistair Begg, Charles Stanley, and Chuck Swindoll online. One of the messages that I can probably attribute to all of them, is that the Christian life was never promised to be peaceful all the time. Christians will find that at one time or another we will be persecuted for our faith, and spreading the good news will sadly be mocked. Add to that we find that Satan does whatever he can to ruin our walk. Persecution in whatever form it takes is essentially guaranteed once taking up the cross of Christ.

Boy that sounds awful doesn’t it? This is where I look at my life to find that peace though flighty at times, surfaces more than I realize. Socrates said that a life unexamined isn’t worth living. That is true. I look at the last four months of my life and despite the change, I find peace. My mother, now in the late stages of cancer, is dying. I am starting a new career that has me studying material that appears to be overwhelming. It is also scary because while I study, I must keep a clear head because my mother is dying, and I have no income at the moment. That isn’t exactly a peaceful scenario. That said, I sleep better at night than I have in the last two years, I’m closer to my family than I have been at any time in my life, and I don’t seem to be sweating the whole no income thing. I can simply say that despite the storm I’m going through, I have peace. The scariest part of my life is what it would be like to go through all this without my faith! I have found a calm amidst the storm. Though I must go through it, I have a guy like Jesus to annoyingly roll over, wave his hand, glare at me, roll back over, and go back to sleep. The summary for me is that to have peace, first have faith. It isn’t easy, but its better than the alternative.

Are You Grateful Of Your Church Family?

MomIt has been quite some time since I’ve posted anything, but with good reason. I’ve had a bunch to write about, most of it has been more appropriate for a personal journal than a public blog. I’ll summarize in a few words, and in doing so say some great things about some great people, my church family. The short of it is that my mother is dying of cancer; not battling cancer, but dying of cancer. It’s devastating to my family and has thrown off the natural order of things to say the least. Since December of 2011 my mom was battling, that was hard. However, when there is something to do, something to be done to stay in the fight, it makes things sort of okay. About a month ago we found out that mom is dying, and that my friends, changed everything.

As is the case with many of the male half of the species, I’m a momma’s boy. I had kept relatively quiet about her struggles save for a few people. Now that we know mom won’t be getting better this time, the world looks different. I realized that I was exhibiting a rather flat affect in my personality; I’ve been depressed. Grief sucks. Sitting on my church council, I felt it appropriate to mention to the pastors why I wouldn’t be at our last meeting. We have had a steady stream of family and friends coming in to visit mom. Helping her walk this road is an honor that I’m pleased to be able to help with. As I told mom, this her game, and wear are playing by her rules. I think a good son ought to help.

During communion, Pastor Sansgaard will use my first name, “The body of Christ, given for you, Kurt.” That has been a personal touch that has always been meaningful, but when I heard my name last Sunday I felt this peace. I mean a real, true peace I can only explain as…peaceful. It washed over me in a way that was truly indescribable. I began to cry, quickly swallowing back the tears.  I’m not a public crier even though there is just too much emotion pent-up inside, but it showed up Sunday morning. Those words, the promise of Christ, and the true compassion of a pastor demonstrated in a look, broke me.

As the service let out, Pastor Stappler is usually good for a handshake or a high-five (I’m partial to the high-five). Sunday I got a real hug, and assurances from God, that things are going to be okay. Again the tears welled up from someplace deep inside, and again I pulled them back. Moments later in the narthex, as my family and I worked to sneak in a cup of coffee before the kids ran off to Sunday school, I was approached by our council president. We spoke briefly and I was asked how mom was doing. As I again swallowed the tears, he kindly reminded me it was okay to cry. So I did. The release was healthy, and it felt good. Finally, over coffee and some sort of pumpkin bread, my wife and I met with another friend and council member only to find all three of us crying.

There have been two guys I play fantasy football with, both offering prayers; one asking for my mother’s name so they could pray for her. Countless people have been so kind to me and my family. I feel so blessed to know such people, and in time, I hope to return the favor. The body of Christ has been so supportive, and I can’t help but be thankful for all the prayers offered on my mother’s behalf. My family and I thank you all.

With that, I ask one simple question of you. Are you grateful of your church family? I know am, and I hope you are too.

Winning Prayer In Just 100 Easy Steps

I have started and trashed so many posts about the topic of prayer. Prayer can feel like it takes 100 steps to get it right but it really is the ultimate paradox. It is that simple, and it is that complex. I have learned a thing or two about prayer that I want to share in the hopes that if you are stuck in your prayer life, this might shake it all loose for you. Remember, it isn’t anywhere near 100 steps.

Prayer is more about “Our Father” than it is about us
I’ve read two books on prayer that made any sense to me, one from Andrew Murray called “Lord, Teach us to Pray” and “The Prayer of Jesus” by Hank Hanegraaff. Both books are great reads, though Hank is smarter than the rest of us so his reading can be difficult from time to time (please Hank, just SAY IT! Don’t use big words all the time to get it done!). Andrew Murray wrote his book in 1896 so it is free on Kindle if you are interested. Anyway, the prayer known as the “Our Father” can be found in Mathew 6:9. Most of what I pray is through this complete prayer that both Andrew and Hank write so much about.

Lots of reasons we don’t pray
There is no dearth of reasons why we don’t pray (or pray well), but there are a couple that are worth mentioning. Satan, for one, really doesn’t want us talking to God; perhaps that is obvious to some, but conspicuously odd to others. Either way it is something to consider, and something that is true. Another reason that many don’t pray is that we don’t know how to pray; me being a great example. It took me forever to learn how to pray. That is my fault, but in my defense, there weren’t a bunch of people clamoring to offer their advice. My goal here is to try to help someone who may be in the same position I was not too long ago. Praying takes time; from minutes, to hours, to days, prayer isn’t a temporal exercise per say, but in all instances it is time well spent. The down side to taking time is that we often aren’t disciplined enough to do it; think about anything else you ought to be doing right now besides reading this, but aren’t. The last reason we don’t like to pray is that we end up having to discuss things with God that we don’t want to, like the sin in our lives that we keep ignoring. God will confront us with these “gifts” but in the end it feels good to get that out on the table during prayer. It’s the conviction that feels so good!

Time to pray
I touched on this above but have you ever heard or read about a person that spends hours in prayer? It blew me away that anyone could spend that much time praying, but it happens. We are supposed to pray without ceasing which means we are encouraged to have little conversations with God all day. There does however need to be time spent alone in prayer. That is the focus of this post, how that time can look and feel. After reading this I hope you will be able to see how hours can be filled with prayer.

Hit the deck
I don’t think this is mentioned enough when it comes to prayer. Even alone the first several times I felt really odd looking over my shoulder while getting on my knees, but I did it. If you are not accustomed to taking a knee in prayer, you’re going to have to do it at least once on judgment day when we all proclaim that Jesus is Lord and the ruler of all things. Even Satan is aware that he will take a knee. My advice is get over yourself, hit the deck, and see what it does to your prayer.

Shh, I’m almost praying
There are exceptions to every rule, but a general practice for me is not to rush into prayer. Take a minute to quiet your head; consider it warming up before a workout. The quiet before prayer can accomplish several things but I view it more as opening my ears; it’s hard to listen to God, or anyone, if you are busy talking.

Extolling Gods greatness
I always let God know how I feel about him. The ability to let God know how you feel is important. I liken it to telling my wife how much I love her. This is, in my wife’s case, usually followed by me confessing to purchasing a piece of camera equipment I probably shouldn’t have. This is oddly enough just what happens in my prayers to the Lord, I ask for forgiveness.

Make God’s will your will on Earth and in Heaven
According to Andrew Murray, intercession in prayer is a sign of a mature Christian. If you are doing God’s will, you are praying for others. It goes something like this, a person who is newly saved may spend a ton of time praying about themselves, which isn’t a bad thing. A more mature Christian prays for others, and for themselves, which is a great thing. Intercession in prayer can cover the gammat from world leaders, friends, to the TV weatherman. It doesn’t matter who you pray for. Sometimes God will even nudge you to pray for someone, so I’ve heard anyway. Think about it, if we are praying to have God’s will be done on Earth as in Heaven, we should be praying for the people around us. Are you having a disagreement with a neighbor or a co-worker? Pray for them! Pray for the people who you don’t really get along with. It is amazing what can happen when you honestly pray for those you don’t see eye to eye with. I would also say this, don’t just rip down a list of people thinking they have been prayed for. The rip list, if you will, is more for those quick prayers throughout the day.

The best thing ever would be for God to just call it game, set, match. As Christians wouldn’t we all just rather be with God? I would. I also know that there is more work to do here; people to be saved, and that sort of thing. That said, I know what I want, which doesn’t always coincide with what God wants. I need each day to pass the buck to God to let him take care of that. His will on Earth needs to done as it is in Heaven, which is a completed project as I understand it. Do the same on Earth. You can add bonus points to your prayer if God asks you to do something that is his will.

I don’t need the entire loaf; just a slice will do. Thanks anyway.
Asking God to provide just what you need is often overlooked. When you ask for just what you need, don’t limit that to just food or clothes, but add your job too! There are already too few hours in the day it seems; getting into the habit of asking for just what you need for the day can be a real time saver. Don’t overlook it! Take all the “stuff” you do each day and ask God to give just enough of it. That’s a full day of everything you need. It is good to know that God won’t give you things you can’t handle.

We all sin, each day, every day
I want to get the sin off my back before I get into the rest of my prayer. Asking God to forgive your sins can be uncomfortable! If you have the holy spirit in you, sin is even more difficult to talk about because we already know that we shouldn’t be doing the things that we did. I think this is the genesis of all the Catholic guilt jokes that circulate. On a side note, why does it feel like Catholics have the market cornered on guilt jokes? Anyway, the better we know about what not to do, the more it hurts when we do it. When the mighty one wags His big index finger, its time to listen! Also, while you are at it, let God know you are sorry and ask Him to bring up any sin, or anything else for that matter, that you are not aware of. It’s one thing to repent from something you know darn good and well is wrong, it’s another when you weren’t aware you did anything in the first place.

Forgiving others who sin against you is another matter. It could take years to actually forgive someone, but give it a shot, each day until you’ve been able to make peace with it and them. Odds are that you won’t be able to make piece alone, but God can help you. Other sins, easy sins, are easy to forgive; the guy that cut you off on the freeway is a good example. The point is that if you don’t forgive people who sin against you, it will be tough to feel like you have been forgiven. I think those that do forgive others are healthier and happier for it.

No Room At the Inn
Temptation and delivering us from evil. As I mentioned at the front of this post, Satan really doesn’t want us talking with God. Don’t believe in Satan? That is a real bummer because he’s real, and the less you believe he exists, the easier it is for him to work his way into your life. While in prayer, think about all that God does in your life, and thank him. Ask God to make sure Satan doesn’t have a place in your life and that temptation won’t enter your daily routine.

Bonus Material
Read your Bible. Every day. It doesn’t have to be much, but open the book and read some. Then pray about what you read. It’s actually kind of a misnomer classifying this as bonus material, but I needed something to keep you reading; it’s actually mandatory. Keep the book open and God will do great things for you. Pray every day, and you’ll keep the door open for many, many blessings from God.

In Christ’s name
We are supposed to close our prayer with the phrase “In Christ’s name I pray. Amen” I know that the word ‘amen’ means “it is so” or “so be it”. Why pray in Christ’s name? Jesus is the only way to God. If we pray in Christ’s name, we are asking the amen to come via Jesus. Plus it just sounds right to end a prayer that way.

The clock
This happens to be my example of how I pray. If you read either of the two books I suggested, or even mix in your Bible, you’ll have a great way to pray. If you dissect each piece of Mathew 6:9, it is easy to see that a person really truly could spend hours in prayer. Stay focused and keep at it. Prayer works. That statement comes from a guy who once thought God didn’t care what I had to say. Don’t bother looking at the clock. Just get down and pray.