Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Church Relocation Tips

Valley Christian Church is in the process of moving to a new location. Things are going well, but it's a massive and challenging project.

I came across an article with some helpful tips for churches going through this process. Here are highlights from that article.

A few words of encouragement for leaders who are  attempting to lead their ministry through either a relocation or a seismic change of any kind:

1. Accept Uncertainty
Timeline and budget projections are important, but they are, at best, educated guesses. The best advice is to embrace uncertainty with the innocence of a child. Learn to say, “I don’t know” without the biting hint of suggestion that you have been left in the dark.

2. Stretch Your Faith
Relocations will test your faith, so why not leverage that test into an opportunity for spiritual growth? Some days you may find your hand hovering over a panic button because of a frustrating setback in your staff, timetable, or budget.

Immediately turn this opportunity for panic into an opportunity for prayer. Instead of hitting the panic button, hit your knees, and ask God for His favor on your life and ministry.

3. Don’t Commit Mutiny
Every church and organization has early, late, and never adopters. Whether saving millions on utilities or saving more souls, some people can only see the bottom line through a negative lens.

Before you commit mutiny, remember that you are called to be a servant…yeah, a slave. Put down your sword, pick up a basin of water and towel, and get back to work.

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

4. Embrace a Culture Of Change
Some organizations have a flexible dynamic. They are forward thinkers who are more than willing to do whatever it takes. Although there are endless variations of relocation and change, one common thread to success is embracing a culture of change (a.k.a. culture of faith).

5. Be Grateful
Whether you are leading people through a corporate or church change, take time to consider how boring it would be to serve the Lord in an organization that has no vision. Take time during this season of change to thank God for the opportunity to be on this bus, regardless of how fast it goes or what seat you are in.
Excerpted from "5 Relocation Survivor Tips" by Mark Dance on the the LifeWay Pastors blog.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday Words - Deep Calls to Deep

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday Tome - The Good Book

Starting in September, our church will be using this book for an intergenerational class (High School students and older) on Sunday mornings, 9:00am. Brad Dewing, our associate pastor of youth and family ministry will be teaching the class. GOOD BOOK
by Deron Spoo

Publisher's Description...
The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible's biggest ideas. A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible.

Designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible, The Good Book will appeal to those who already love and read the Bible regularly as well as to those who are just beginning their Christian journey.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday Music - Bruce Cockburn: States I'm In 

The first single off of Bruce Cockburn's latest release "Bone On Bone" from True North Records.

Pre-order 'Bone On Bone' now:
True North:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Things that Last Forever

O Lord, help us to not to be stressed out over earthly troubles, but, instead trust that you will see us through. Even now, as we live among things that are passing away, help us to hold on to the things that last forever.

We confess our sins and we thank you for your faithfulness to forgive us and purify us. And as your grateful children, teach us and help us to be faithful to forgive others. May the grace of Jesus help us restore relationships, heal wounds, calm fears, forgive offenses, and resolve conflicts.

O God, help us find our life and meaning and purpose in Jesus. We desire to surrender to him more and more. Give us the wisdom and the will to submit ourselves to you as we follow Him.

It’s in his name that we pray these things. Amen.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thurs Thinking - Formation before Interpretation

Cultivating the Practice of Reading Scripture
by Joel B. Green

While teaching at a conference some years ago, I was startled when a participant announced that he could not imagine how any Republican could claim to take the Bible seriously. Not long afterward, I witnessed a repeat performance in another setting, except in this case we were told that Republicans alone read Scripture correctly. This reminds me of what I imagine to be a first-century “battle for the Bible”: Pharisees, Christ-followers, and Sadducees, all reading the same Scriptures but reading them quite differently, and reaching diverse conclusions about the nature of faithfulness to God. How can this be?

Clearly, a lot has to do with our formation as readers of Scripture and not only with the words written on the page. This underscores the importance of reading Scripture as a “practice,” since the idea of “practice” assumes circularity: Formed by our reading of Scripture, we become better readers of Scripture. This is not because we become better skilled at applying biblical principles. The practice of reading Scripture is not about learning how to mold the biblical message to contemporary lives and modern needs. Rather, the Scriptures yearn to reshape how we comprehend our lives and identify our greatest needs. We find in Scripture who we are and what we might become, so that we come to share its assessment of our situation, encounter its promise of restoration, and hear its challenge to serve God’s good news.

Paradoxically, perhaps, cultivating the practice of reading Scripture first prioritizes Christian formation more generally. This is because there is no necessary, straight line from reading the biblical materials to reading them Christianly; sharply put, one can be “biblical” without being “Christian.”

When Jesus criticizes two disciples on the Emmaus Road for their failure to believe what the prophets had spoken, the problem was not their inability to hear the prophets or take them seriously. Jesus asked, “Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:27 CEB). “Of course it was necessary!” we might say, but the question remains, which prophets actually document this necessity? “Isaiah 53,” we might respond, but we would then need to acknowledge that we can say this only because we have learned to read in just this way. After all, Isaiah 53 never mentions the Messiah, and Jesus’ contemporaries were unaccustomed to thinking of Isaiah’s Servant as a suffering Messiah. The problem faced by Jesus’ disciples was their lack of the cognitive categories required for making sense of the Scriptures in this way. They needed more than a commonsense reading of a biblical text. That Isaiah spoke of Jesus was something they had to learn. Accordingly, Luke records: “Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27 CEB).

This example speaks to the integrated nature of Christian practices, and especially to the ways those practices shape us as readers of Scripture. Christian formation helps us to read the Scriptures Christianly. So it is worth reflecting on the difference it makes to our reading of Scripture that we regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed. What difference does it make to our reading of Scripture that we meet each other repeatedly at the Lord’s Table, that we speak often with people who do not share our faith, that we who share a common faith in Christ eat together regularly, and that we pray to Jesus as though he were God? (And what difference does it make when we do not engage in such practices as these?)

Of course, reading Scripture is itself a central Christian practice, so we may ask how we cultivate this practice among the others—a question I take up more fully in Seized by Truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture (Abingdon, 2007). Here let me make six suggestions.

(1) Reading Scripture is not enough. Theological and ecclesial formation inform and are informed by reading Scripture. Communities that put Scripture into practice through seeking the Holy Spirit, confessing sins and forgiving each other, praying for the sick, and offering good news to others find themselves being prepared to read Scripture.

(2) Read and read again. It is easy to turn time with Scripture into a game of “Twenty Questions”: how to have a happy relationship, learn nancial faithfulness, or whatever. A sharp line can be drawn between utilitarian approaches that treat the Bible as a how-to manual or a database for addressing my questions, and the formation of Scripture-shaped minds that understand God and God’s creation through Scripture-shaped lenses. The latter requires patient, deliberate reading—reading, as it were, for no good reason but for the sake of having our dispositions and re exes shaped by Scripture.

(3) Read slowly. Those of us who find ourselves moving back and forth between blogs, email, texts, news outlets, and social networks on our smartphones and tablets need different rules of engagement for reading Scripture. This practice concerns not how fast I can get through today’s reading, but how slowly, combining prayer, reading, and contemplation. To crib Jesus’ words, “Let these words sink into your ears” (Luke 9:44 NRSV).

(4) Involve yourself. If the last century or more has imagined education as the process of stepping back to observe, assess, and attain knowledge, then this practice calls for different habits. This learning is self-involving, a means by which we hear God’s address. Why do we resist this text but embrace that one? What does it mean that we are included in the community of God’s people addressed by this text?

(5) Read together. Inasmuch as scriptural texts have their origins and purpose deeply rooted in the community of God’s people, we ought to nd ways to read in community. By this I refer to the importance of study groups where our assumptions and views are tested, but even more I mean to counter the temptation to imagine that Scripture is simply for me and about me, or that I am tasked with determining its significance apart from the larger church, historically and globally.

(6) Refuse to distinguish between reading the Bible for a class or sermon and reading the Bible for Christian formation. We come to Scripture for different reasons at different times, but it would be a mistake to imagine that preparing an exegesis paper or sermon required qualitatively different protocols. Should we leave our theological and ecclesial locations behind when doing exegesis? Should work with Scripture in sermon preparation bypass the reservoir of my regular reading practices? Should the crises that arise as I encounter God’s voice in Scripture not shape my reading of these texts with and for others?

As with Christian practices in general, so with developing scriptural patterns of faith and life: the destination is the journey itself. This is a journey in which we discover that the work of scriptural reading is not about transforming an ancient message into a modern application but about the transformation of our lives though Scripture. The Bible does not present us with texts to be mastered, then, but with a Word intent on shaping our lives, on mastering us.

This article published at

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday Words - A Barred Owl

The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl's voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
"Who cooks for you?" and then "Who cooks for you?"

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

by Richard Wilbur, from Collected Poems: 1943-2004.
© Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Tech-Wise Families

I'm posting this book again this week since my associate pastor, Brad Dewing, recommended it to all youth parents at a lunch gathering after church yesterday. Brad says it's every bit as much about family as it is about tech. So let's read it!
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for 
Putting Technology in Its Proper Place 
by Andy Crouch

Publisher's description...
Making conscientious choices about technology in our families is more than just using internet filters and determining screen time limits for our children. It's about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media rather than accepting technology's promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world's knowledge at our fingertips. And it's definitely not just about the kids.

Drawing on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, Andy Crouch shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. He takes readers beyond the typical questions of what, where, and when and instead challenges them to answer provocative questions like, Who do we want to be as a family? and How does our use of a particular technology move us closer or farther away from that goal? Anyone who has felt their family relationships suffer or their time slip away amid technology's distractions will find in this book a path forward to reclaiming their real life in a world of devices.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Guide Us in All Ways

O God, we need your help to be the people you want us to be. We ask your Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives to transform us and guide us in all ways. Help us to trust you with all our hearts.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to leave the darkness and love the light. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Help us, O Lord, to be good stewards of all you have given us. Grant us the wisdom and the will to guard our hearts, feed our spirits, stimulate our minds, and care for our bodies. And help us, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for us to do.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Favorites - Hidden Falls Park

Hidden Falls Park - St. Paul, MN

I just discovered this amazing park this summer. It is a quiet sprawling park with beautiful scenery, great trails, wonderful picnic sites, and good fishing with a boat launch.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Race and Grace

Revelation 5:9
9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

In John’s vision he sees the Lamb who was slain surrounded by the elders and the four living creatures as they worship him. The Lamb, they sing, is worthy of praise and worship because he laid down his life to save people from every people group. God's intention and plan is to save people from every people group. Jesus’ sacrifice was made for people of every race, ethnicity, nation, and language. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life.

Those who walk in the way of Christ must remember that his love and sacrifice are for all people. God's heart is benevolent toward all people regardless of ethnicity and culture. Those whose hearts are being led and shaped by the Spirit will also have good will toward all people, regardless of ethnicity and culture.

Let us raise our voices in praise to God for the salvation and hope he offers to all humanity through Christ. Let us also join God's redemptive intention and work for the blessing and salvation of all people whatever their race or nation of origin.

Acts 10:34-35
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Words - August

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves, there is
this happy tongue.

"August" by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive, © Copyright 1983 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Tech-Wise Families

Here's a new book recommended to me by my associate pastor, Brad Dewing. I'm looking forward to checking it out. Brad said it's a book he wishes he had back when his kids were younger. I'm sure we'll have a number of parents from our church reading it in the months ahead.
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for 
Putting Technology in Its Proper Place 
by Andy Crouch

Publisher's description...
Making conscientious choices about technology in our families is more than just using internet filters and determining screen time limits for our children. It's about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media rather than accepting technology's promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world's knowledge at our fingertips. And it's definitely not just about the kids.

Drawing on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, Andy Crouch shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. He takes readers beyond the typical questions of what, where, and when and instead challenges them to answer provocative questions like, Who do we want to be as a family? and How does our use of a particular technology move us closer or farther away from that goal? Anyone who has felt their family relationships suffer or their time slip away amid technology's distractions will find in this book a path forward to reclaiming their real life in a world of devices.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Music - Good-bye Glen

News of Glen Campbell's passing last week hit me a lot harder than I expected. When I started writing music back in the 70s, the combination of Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb was an inspiration to me. What a singer and guitar player, but even more, what an amazing ear the man had for recognizing a well-crafted song. Adios, Glen. You were really something special.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Renew Us by Your Spirit

Help us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts. We humble ourselves before you. We know we cannot rely on our own strength, and we rejoice in your mercy. Thank you for your promise to forgive and purify us. Thank you for being the one who saves.

We confess our sins knowing that there is forgiveness and grace in you. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Remind us, O God, of your promises. And help us to persevere in our lives with love and reverence for you. Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit. Bring us safely through this day and all our days to come.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Smile - Heartwarming Surprise

Today's smile is brought to you by a segment that was on the TODAY SHOW a few days ago. I was watching and enjoying the story and then had the unexpected fun of seeing my son, Tyler, playing along with Mat Kearney. What a special little girl and family, and what a wonderful cause!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Wednesday Words - August Morning

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect--
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

“August Morning” by Albert Garcia from “Skunk Talk” (Bear Starr Press) © Copyright 2005 by Albert Garcia.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Super Forecasting

Just ordered this book today. Looks really interesting...
Super Forecasting
by Tetlock & Gardner

Publisher's description...
Everyone would benefit from seeing further into the future, whether buying stocks, crafting policy, launching a new product, or simply planning the week’s meals. Unfortunately, people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts’ predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight, and Tetlock has spent the past decade trying to figure out why. What makes some people so good? And can this talent be taught?

In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people—including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer—who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers have turned out to be astonishingly good. They’ve beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They’ve even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are "superforecasters."

In this groundbreaking and accessible book, Tetlock and Gardner show us how we can learn from this elite group. Weaving together stories of forecasting successes (the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound) and failures (the Bay of Pigs) and interviews with a range of high-level decision makers, from David Petraeus to Robert Rubin, they show that good forecasting doesn’t require powerful computers or arcane methods. It involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course.

Superforecasting offers the first demonstrably effective way to improve our ability to predict the future—whether in business, finance, politics, international affairs, or daily life—and is destined to become a modern classic.

BONUS: Read or listen to a Book review on Minnesota Public Radio

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Nourish Us with Goodness

O Lord God, we acknowledge your power and your holiness. You are the author and giver of all good
things. Work in our hearts and teach us to truly love you. Nourish us with goodness. Help us to live in true devotion to you in all we do. Help us, by faith, to do the good things you have in mind for us to do.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Help us as we extend that same forgiveness to others who have sinned against us. Help my church become a grace-filled family. And help us to have a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

We thank you, O God, for life, and hope, and salvation. Lead us away from temptation. Deliver us from evil. Provide for our needs this day. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Learning about Racism

This is a classroom experiment that would never happen today. It was done back in 1968 when I was eleven years old. Because of that, I'm very empathetic with how those kids in a small town in Iowa must have felt in that time and place. It seems radical and maybe a little traumatic for the kids, but you have to remember that we were already traumatized by watching the news and seeing assassinations of Kennedy, Oswald, Kennedy, and King.

It was time for some radical thinking and perspective on racism and violence and the human heart. When will we wake up to our own selfishness and begin to love our neighbor as ourselves – to do unto others as we would have them do to us? To empathize with the oppressed and marginalized. To stand against discrimination.



Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday Words - Splitting an Order

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

"Splitting an Order" by Ted Kooser, from Splitting an Order (Copper Canyon Press) © Copyright 2014 by Ted Kooser, and from Valentines, © University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Kooser Collection

Splitting an Order
by Ted Kooser

I have long been a fan of Ted Kooser's poetry. Maybe it's because he his writing references typical midwestern life. Maybe it's a Nebraska roots connection. Most likely, it's because I so love the way he manages to sparkle with life and truth and human empathy through simple and straightforward descriptions of the everyday things slip by most of us.

My wife gave me this little book of Kooser poems as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. She knows me well.

"Ted Kooser must be the most accessible and enjoyable major poet in America. His lines are so clear and simple."
—Michael Dirda,The Washington Post

“Readers [of Splitting an Order] will find ‘characters’ both strange and wonderful, animal or human. There is a sense that time is passing quickly and that everything worthy must be captured and savored, from an old couple lovingly sharing a sandwich to another sowing seed potatoes to a tribute to an old dog who waits as age and winter approach… Master of the single-metaphor poem, Kooser offers images that evolve, fluid and unforced.”
Library Journal, starred review

"Kooser's ability to discover the smallest detail and render it remarkable is a rare gift."
Bloomsbury Review

Pulitzer Prize winner and best selling poet Ted Kooser calls attention to the intimacies of life through commonplace objects and occurrences: an elderly couple sharing a sandwich is a study in transcendent love, while a tattered packet of spinach seeds calls forth innate human potential. This long-awaited collection from the former U.S. Poet Laureate—ten years in the making—is rich with quiet and profound magnificence.
– From the Publisher

Ted Kooser is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including Delights and Shadows (Copper Canyon Press), which won the Pulitzer Prize. A former US Poet Laureate, Kooser serves as editor for "American Life in Poetry," a nationally syndicated weekly newspaper column.