Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

I am Moving On

A few weeks ago I put in my blog page that I will be blogging every day for 365 days. To be honest I have been sticking with it but am going to embrace the video means now. I have been doing video casts (vodcasts) for the Sanctuary International Matrix YouTube channel. They have been receiving many hits and comments as well. To take the place of daily typing I will be posting my videos here. Many of them are at 5 minutes or less unless I get all worked up....then call me butter because I am on a roll. 

I look forward to reading your comments, suggestions and more. "As iron sharpens iron" lets grow together.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Abba's Embrace

This morning started off as most mornings do in the Adams home. I wake up James at 7:45 and made my way down to Emma’s room. Emma always seems to take a bit more time to wake up. This morning however once she was up, she was jumping around and being silly. Keep in my mind my girl is only 4 years old. After telling her to settle down she insisted on jumping and being goofy. I must admit that I did laugh because she was being so goofy but deep down I knew she is going to hit something. It happened, she jumped forward and tried to jump back slipping on a shirt she left on her floor which landed her right on her butt. It wasn’t a light bump. Rather it was one you could tell had to hurt pretty bad. 

I will admit there was a part of me that wanted to drive the point all parents do “see if you would have just listened to me.” However, I could tell she was hurt but did not want to cry because she wasn’t listening. All I did was stretch out my arms as I sat on the edge of her bed and she ran to my embrace. I told her it was okay to cry as it probably did hurt. That was all she needed and she let loose. After a bit of time she regained her composure and we moved on with the morning. 

This is how I view our heavenly father when we do not listen and ultimately end up hurting ourself. Full of grace and compassion he loving opens his arms up to us so we may feel our father’s embrace. It is with the words “let it all out” that we begin to cry, let out our frustrations and have a moment in our father’s presence. Scripture clearly points out “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I don’t have to expect anything but love from my Abba father when I am hurt and in need of his embrace. This is a good place to be. 

No matter what we are going through we can know our father’s arms are wide open ready to embrace us. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Living in Bondage to the Gospel

Have you looked around in Christianity and asked the simple question “how can you live in bondage to something so freeing?” It really sounds like an odd question doesn’t it? This gospel message that we were given is something to be light and non-burdensome. When Jesus talks about taking his yoke upon us...he is literally referring to his teaching. 

If something is so incredibly freeing then why do so many people live in bondage to it? You do not have to look far on Facebook before you see someone posting over and over again cliche quotes, catchy statements and scripture after scripture. What is amazingly true is the fact when you look back at all this person has posted...many of the things contradict one another. It’s as if the person making all the postings simply has no thought of his/her own. At least this is what I thought until I engaged one person in conversation. 

What came out in our conversation was the fact they once lived an extreme life. When coming into the Christian scene they now live another extreme life. This made it very hard for them to find a middle ground where the true gospel is. Instead they are bound by legalism and some scripture that have nothing to do with us today. This can lead to burn out and depression rather than joy and life to the fullest as we walk in grace. It was later revealed that they did not know what to believe on some things so rather than potentially putting their own thought out there, they will stick to reposting other peoples thoughts. To put their own thoughts out there for the public to read could result in severe correction. 

It really is a sad thing when we can no longer be free in Christ to do or believe things that may cut counter to popular Christian culture. This is how we grow and quite honestly when I see someone posting catchy quote after catchy quote...I begin to wonder. When a person only posts scripture...I want to ask...what are your thoughts? I want to hear those! It really is possible to live free. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

That's Enough Salt

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6(NIV)

Is it possible that the church is going the way of the book and music industry? This is what I mean…their was a hay day when the large record labels owned the market. There was even a day that, Simon and Schuster along with other publishing companies owned the book market. These days are changing aren’t they? In an electronic world where you can self-publish writings and music we are finding that the best art out there is found in the independent or underground market. Amazon has revealed that e-books are now outselling paper books.

I think the same can be said of churches today. People are tired of the church scene run as an industry. They may still align themselves with a denomination or movement which is a great thing. However, they are finding churches and fellowships (that still may align with their ideals) that are just different. They certainly may not be bigger but people are seeing that church should be run as a ministry not as an industry or business all about the money or keeping to themselves.

When the apostle Paul wrote this verse above he knew that too much of anything is bad. This came out in a conversation I had with someone. Somewhere in the institution of church many (not all) have forgotten what it means to season something. If I have someone over and grill some hamburgers I will ask them how they like their burger seasoned. Inevitably they will say with some salt. You see just a little bit of salt can go a long way. When I am in conversation with someone, “seasoned with salt” may mean sharing briefly my thought on how God may view this or that. Literally just a few words can make a person know where you are coming from on that topic. This displays so much grace when a person does this. Just a few words can get a person thinking verses a 5 or 10 minute dissertation and the occasional ambush lunch.

What would ruin that hamburger? I believe that if the person asked for some salt and I handed it back to them with a salt lick on it…I have done two things. I have completely mangled the burger (bun and all) causing the person to leave it and be grossed out by it thinking I am the worst cook ever. The same can be said of conversations that don’t display grace. A person may ask for a little advice and instead of seasoning it with salt making it a great conversation…I end up overloading them with teaching upon teaching, thought upon thought, unsolicited opinion upon unsolicited opinion. What happens? This conversation that could have gone so well now is a unappealing pile of garbage. What could have been a beautiful conversation is now a pile of yuck.

We have a task to show great grace in our conversations with people.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Spring time often brings wonder to a pre-schooler for so many reasons. In our front and back yard there are bird feeders that bring with it many different types of birds. From finches to morning doves, we have them all. The trees are in full blossom as well. Right by my kitchen window is a beautiful lilac tree that should begin blossoming soon. With all of the bugs and more coming out, the fact remains there is one thing my kids are simply enamored with...that is dandelions. 

No matter how much I use weed and feed in my yard early in the season, I still manage to get these popping up here and there. For my daughter Emma this is the greatest thing because inevitably she picks quite a few for mom. Through the eyes of a child a weed like the dandelion is no different than a fully bloomed american beauty red rose. Why is that? Because nobody wants to corrupt a child telling them “we don’t like dandelions because they are weeds.” Instead we let the child truly see beauty for what it is. 

Sadly there comes a point where a child finds out that this beautiful yellow sunburst is simply a weed. It is as if from that moment forward they look at it differently. They will kick it, pop the top off with their thumb or even take one and smear the yellow part on a friends arm. They have lost respect for this once beautiful thing in their eyes because someone told them what they perceive it to be. 

Through our everyday life we have to be careful. Remember that person you use to view one way through innocent eyes? How about that group of people you really did not know much about other than they were always nice to you so you were nice to them? Somewhere along life's path someone told you “that person is a sinner or living in sin.” We end up getting all of these preconceived thoughts about different groups of people because we lost our innocence. Somewhere along the way we no longer live out “love your neighbor as yourself” because they don’t think, act or talk like we do. This often times leads us to judging what we simply do not know. 

I pray often that God would help us get back to that innocence lost. Many times I have to ask got to help me to truly view people the way He does...with love and compassion. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have done, we must simply learn to love people who are not like us because even a dandelion is beautiful through untainted eyes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What is Life?

There is a haunting verse found in James 4:14(NIV) that says “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” 

More times than not when I do a funeral this is a scripture I use.  This verse came back to me while visiting with my parents this past weekend at my house. It was a beautiful sunny day out. In just a few hours we would be meeting up with other friends and family to celebrate my niece and nephew’s birthday. Out of nowhere my mom said “not to bring down the conversation but when either of us pass away...would you come down to Milwaukee and help make preparations? The way I see it is I have about 12 to 15 years left and I am starting to get a bit scared.” Now I must admit this was a huge downer for me. Not necessarily the topic I wanted to talk about but I guess I understand the concern. My dad chimed in as well as we talked about how long grandma and grandpa lived. Both of my parents are in their 70’s and it can be scary times as others they have known have passed in this age range. I wonder what made my parents think about this. 

It is interesting how my mom stated time just crept up on her really quick and here she is now in her 70’s. I know for a fact there is so much more my mom wants to do but because of health and possibly age, she simply cannot do it. It is still my dream to get my dad to a Green Bay Packers game as he has never been to the stadium. They are realizing that we are simply “a mist that appears for a little while”. This has caused me to really cherish all of the small things in life and make the most of each opportunity with friends and family.

There is a Zen teaching that says “when you drink tea, drink tea.” In other words live in each moment and truly embrace it because next thing you know time has slipped away.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bible Apps and Egos

I recall sitting with a group of pastors while ago having good conversation. One of them told me “you know...people have you pegged as a pretty liberal thinker. Perhaps even liberal in your theology.” I had to laugh because when you get to know me...I really am not all that liberal. In fact I take a bit of pride in my Sunday morning ritual. I wake up, read the Bible, spend time in prayer, get in my truck and of all the Sirius/XM stations I have, I end up on the Elvis channel...why? Because each and every Sunday morning is the Elvis gospel hour to which I sing along with EVERY song. This is just one of many ways I am quite old fashioned. My thing is that I enjoy letting people share their thoughts and opinions without telling them they are wrong. I simply like to hear other thoughts even in a Bible study setting. Who am I to tell someone they are wrong for what they believe or how God has moved in their life? The minute I do that is the minute I have created God in my own image. 

One way I am quite a fuddy duddy is when it comes to scriptural knowledge. Now I am not even talking about memorizing scripture left and right. Fact is if you know all the scripture in the world and yet are a jerk....you have zero respect from me. Love really is the key. The scripture knowledge I am talking about is simply knowing how the Bible works. You know....the basics. How many books are in the Bible? How many in the old and new testament (easy math question)? Who wrote the books? Understanding how chapters and verses work. These are the things I am talking about. It really is foundational. 

This evening at youth group I gave the teens their own new Bible. Some of them already have their own but welcomed a new one. I have done this before with other groups of teens but it seems more and more the Bible app is not helping to build a foundation. Now I am all for Bible apps but only after I have grasped the basics of the Bible that I mentioned above. Fact is I feel sorry for many church kids these days because they will never experience sword drills. I am really amazed at how many kids simply do not bring their Bible to church at all because it is not something we value these days. I am truly thankful my parents made sure my brother and I always had our Bibles when we went to church. Well that is legalistic isn’t it? Were we spiritually abused because of that? NO! As with anyone in formative years...I needed that to make me who I am today. It was a very positive thing. 

You see Bible apps are like egos. Like Father Richard Rohr has taught, in order to lose your ego you first have to build one up. In other words growing up you must form an ego. This helps define who you are and provides much needed structure to form you into the the person you are today. There does come a point however where you are so secure in who you are that you can now lose your ego. You no longer have to feed this thing because you know who you are and remain secure in that. The same can be said for Bibles. I think a kid ought to learn the basics of a Bible. The stories are fabulous and the lessons are timeless. To learn the structure, the books, authors, etc. should be foundational. I am quite sure that by time a kid gets his first device where he can begin to download apps, he will have had a biblical foundation laid that will hold him where he know longer needs to carry the paper version around but rather the app. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Toughest Thing in Ministry

This morning as I was on a Skype counseling call towards the end of my conversation I was asked a simple question “do you have many friends in the church? If so...how?” I thought that was a great question and I will do my best to spell out in this blog my response. 

Being a pastor of a church can have some very interesting dynamics in the realm of friendships. Like you, I can say many people are my friends. Even if we only see each other once a week, I can still say they are my friends. There are those however that seem to be closer than others. It is no mystery they are the ones who are in the same phase of life that I am. You know...pre-schoolers, etc.  This held true during the years as a single youth pastor. I simply did not want to be close friends with those who had children. There are my friends that have similar interests which for me happen to be fishing, motorcycling, biking, etc. I think this is only natural for anyone in any walk of life. I would be the first to admit that I wish I could hang out with everyone. This is why we have some great fellowship events throughout the week. Truth be told, I so enjoy being friends to everyone but fact is some are closer than others. I guess this is what we call life. 

As with any friendship....you take a risk. I have always said that when a person becomes a friend it would be wise to apologize right away. You may be asking “for what?” For the times that you will offend and hurt that person. It is a guarantee that at some point along the way you will make a poor decision, say something dumb or simply do/say something offensive that you had no idea. In any case a true friend will stick with you through those times. For the ones that leave the first time they are offended or let down; It is probably best they go anyway...apparently they are perfect. It is even more difficult as a pastor and being in the spotlight when people sabotage your friendships. This happens when “well meaning” people put words into your mouth causing a riff in a friendship. With over 17+ years in full time ministry this has happened a handful of times. Want to know the crazy part? I and many pastors know exactly who these people are. The church is a small world and word travels quick. What’s even more crazy (and many pastors could easily do this) is that we as pastors have so much on these people who destroy friendships that should one of us ever snap and air out their laundry...things truly could be devastating for them as well. I along with many others choose to take the highroad however and try to find something in that person they still like. However, these people that destroy friendships ought to read 1 Samuel 24 specifically verse 4 where it states The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, 'I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'" Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.” In other words...David gave Saul a warning that he could take him out whenever he wanted. He didn’t but it certainly was a real possibility. Those who sabotage friendships really ought to apologize because more than likely...pastors already know who did it.

You know...we all need friends. Nothing makes me happier than hanging out with people. It doesn’t matter who because people are people. When we have church events or cookouts...the more the merrier! Do I have close friends in the church? Yes. Do I have casual friends in the church? Yes. The fact is a church should be a place where you can find a good friend whether you are a pastor or not...it really is the beauty of the church. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Just For Moms!

So it’s happening...a day that I am so excited about. This day has been 7 or 8 years in the making. What is it you ask? I must admit it is something that you may not be expecting but awesome none the less. Okay okay I will tell you....it’s the message I am giving next Sunday for Mothers Day. What makes this day so special? I mean beside my kids having the best mom in the whole wide world? I would say the message I get to share next Sunday is really going to be an eye opener. In fact I am quite confident it will shock some given the guest speaker I have invited in. 

One does not have to look far in the tabloids and entertainment news to see so many women hurting. From Kim Kardashian feeling out of sorts because she is having a baby to Amanda Bynes struggling day in and day out. You get stories like Lindsay Lohan and so many more. All of these stories seem to be circled around a lady simply wanting to be beautiful. It is my opinion that no matter how old or how young a girl is there is a need for those words “you are beautiful.” 

Before Emma left for her aunties house this weekend I pulled her in close to me with a hug and simply told her “Daddy put Wreck it Ralph on mom’s iPad for you. Don’t forget you are a very pretty girl.” She squealed with joy at the part I told her she was pretty. 

This coming Sunday (May 12) is going to be one you will not soon forget. For those of you not in the area, I am quite confident you will enjoy the podcast. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

You Are Not the Holy Spirit

I am currently working through the bible trying to find areas where it says we ought to nag people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Honestly, I have been researching this because it happens quite a bit. This is how a conversation will sometimes go when I am approached by some...

Friend: Pastor Bob, keep me in prayer because I am trying to lead someone to the Lord. They are being hard headed though.

Me: Ah...I see.

Friend: They have told me that all I do is annoy them but I am going to keep on prodding them along. Do you have any words of advice for me?

You see, my words of advice to them would be "BE THEIR FRIEND!" To be someone's friend means also to love them like a friend. I would like to believe that through your friendship, words spoken, etc. your life would be a testimony to them of who God is. 

It is no wonder they do not want to come to church when you are being a nag. I never see once where a disciple, apostle, prophet, teacher or Jesus nagged people until they came to church. What happens if they do get to that point and say "YES I will go to church" and ends up going to the Lutheran church?

Success or failure because they didn't go to your church?

According to the bible and my understanding, we plant the seed and God cultivates that. Let the Holy Spirit do it's work...don't try and be the Holy Spirit because you will fail at it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Strippers, Farmers, Goths, White and Blue Collar, etc. UNITE!!

Have you ever taken the time to read JUST the red letters of the Bible? You know...the parts where Jesus talked. I am not referring to the Apostle Paul’s writings or anyone elses. SIMPLY THE RED LETTERS. If you have not, please let me suggest you do so. If you have read them you will notice something very odd. Nowhere does he call out specific groups of people for how they dress, act or the lifestyle they live. This is very interesting isn’t it? Why do you think this is? I have two thoughts on the subject. 

My first thought is that Jesus was laying down a foundation for his disciples on what a church ought to look like. When he was confronted by the prostitute he had nothing but love for her. The tax-collectors? In all of these random meetings he simply wanted to show them love. He did offer some wisdom in regards to how they ought to carry on but the fact remains the same...he loved them. It is no wonder the church grew by leaps and bounds in those days. Who doesn’t want to be a part of something where love and relationships are key? It is no mystery however that the people he had the least amount of time for were the pharisees. Even then he did die for them. 

The second thought is that we ought to simply love. Billy Graham was asked about the gay issue, this was his response: “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I honestly believe that with all of my heart because when you read through scripture, Billy Graham’s statement is true. When we can stick to this mindset we really do turn church gatherings into a place of love. I recall speaking at Lifest last year and told the crowd “we simply ought to love everyone that comes into church. If....IF something has to change in anyone, we must let that come from the Holy Spirit.” Just because someone comes into a church that looks different, acts different, lives a different lifestyle or comes from a different social class does not mean the pastor ought to gear a message specifically at that person. More times than not the person that message is being directed at simply will not come back....and I don’t blame them. It is one thing if the Holy Spirit uses a message to prompt someones heart. That is divine, mystical and awesome. I have fed the machine and seen plenty of speakers however that will see someone that, by their standards needs Christ. Therefore they will put a zinger in their message directed at them. Not cool.

Imagine a place where strippers, homeless, white collar, blue collar, goths, farmers, etc. could all come together because they know it truly is the Lord’s house and everyone is welcome. That is what we try to do at Radiant Fellowship (the church I pastor) and what I try to do in my own life. God loves everyone....I think we ought to do the same.

I believe what Shane Claiborne said, “a church should attract the people Jesus attracted and frustrate the people Jesus frustrated.”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

National Day of Prayer Rebellion

Have you ever had those times where someone tells you to do something and even though it is something you enjoy...you simply won’t do it because the rebel side comes out? A few years back this day was that for me because it is “The National Day of Prayer.” The praying that I saw role modeled at times growing up made the whole prayer thing very unappealing to me. It always seemed that when I attended a corporate prayer meeting it was like having Christmas with the relatives. Whoever had the loudest voice was the one who had the floor. Those kind of prayer meetings really made a searching teenager question Matthew 6:5 that states "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” 

As I have grown in my faith I realize more everyday that prayer is not necessarily about being loud and vocal. It isn’t even about lingering at the altar in order to make yourself look more spiritual. Looking back however at the days of being a teenager and “lingering at the altar”, did that make a person look more spiritual or make them out to be a filthy sinner because of how long they were there? I digress. After I attended a few prayer retreats and began reading books by Henry Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Richard Rohr and more I began to get a new idea of what prayer really is. "The three most important things you can do," Billy Graham says, "are to pray, pray, pray!" I can honestly say this is very true. 

Having a new and fresh...perhaps biblical take on prayer I can honestly say when I see a promo for the national day of prayer, it is nothing new for me now. Every day is a day of prayer for me. The words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 about praying without ceasing is all about a lifestyle. Praying without ceasing is not about staying on your knees all day while neglecting your other daily tasks. It is about communion with God no different than staying aware of the presence of your spouse/loved one. It is a good place to be.

National day of prayer? A good thing if done with a proper perspective of what prayer really is.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

365 Blogs in 365 Days

Crazy Eyes from Mr. Deeds. 
So am I crazy or do I simply have a lot of thoughts? To those two questions I would respond with a YES. Leading up to my birthday on April 29th I began to think about challenging myself once again to blog for a year.

On my birthday in 2010 I decided to challenge myself and see if I can do it. There were some times that I missed a post but overall I stuck to the plan. The result was good with many blogs being loved and some....well....not so much. There really was something for everyone to love and something for everyone to hate. Just today I received a kind word from a person regarding my blog entitled "Day 263: Wedding Etiquette From a Pastor's Perspective." A random person said "Great post. This was the #1 result in Google when searching 'how to talk to wedding pastor about fee.' Thanks a bunch." These are encouraging words to a blogger.

It is my hope that you will stick with me on this journey. You will find that I have moved away from some subjects I talked about when I did this in 2010. Perhaps you will be enlightened and perhaps you will enlighten me with your blog comments. Lets see where this goes. I am up for the challenge and look forward to doing this again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A New Path This Spring

Springtime...so many thoughts come to mind as we enter this time of year. We think of life and renewing of life.  Fresh starts and a renewed sense of purpose are on the forefront of many minds. This spring has been especially special to me because I am making steps forward to let go of some things from the past. Let me share with you my experience and see if perhaps it motivates you in some way. 

From 2003 until 2005 I experienced things in ministry that no vocational pastor should ever have to go through. If you know me, then you know the details but I will not go into them here and now. One missionary featured on "Focus on the Family" told me "you have experienced more in 2 years than most pastors experience in a lifetime."  I will dive into these topics when I am asked to be a speaker at an event to address abuses in the church but that is the extent of it these days. There is a good possibility I will be a speaker at another Christian festival this summer. I will know more in weeks to come. Anyway, these events left me hurt and bitter. So many times I would keep rehashing these old stories as many people could relate. Sadly the retelling of these stories kept taking me back to the days when things began to unravel which stirred up more disgust. 

It was not until this year that I really began to let the past go. Isn’t it amazing how long it can take to get over some hurts from our past? I used to be amazed growing up in church at the old people that could hold onto a grudge for years. Some would call this “Irish Alzheimer's”...you forget everything but a grudge. Looking at my life and reflecting back on those that held grudges for years, I soon began to realize I was that person and something had to be done. Perhaps there were other factors playing into my decision as the onset of 2013 has brought with it some health challenges. Some of them have downright made me quite stressed and worried. More on that another time. When faced with health challenges and have the harsh reality that another decade is about to pass, I began to think about the frailty and beauty of life. More and more I came to the conclusion that I need to let things go, find forgiveness and do my best to live in peace. That’s just what I am doing. 

About a month ago I began to compile a list of people that I have burned bridges with or that have hurt me. It was a good size list due to the nature of these incidences. It was after I experienced the ugly side of church politics that I turned myself into the victim. So I wrote a letter forgiving those I felt have hurt me and asking for forgiveness as well. I decided to own the fact I acted in a less than flattering way and now must own up to it. It was so encouraging to get responses back immediately. Anytime you put your neck out on the line, you never know what to expect. Even the pastor that called me out by name in Milwaukee during his message wrote back a very encouraging response. There have been some I never did hear back from from my attempt at this over a year ago. One person wrote back to me stating I am forgiven but am still a wolf. I am thankful for the note none the less. 

It really is springtime in my life and I will never forget 2013. It almost should be a pre-requisite in friendships that apologies should be offered right away. Why? Because you will let each other down. I suppose immaturity would say just run and find a new friend. However there is something to looking past the faults as well because just when you are ready to point out the fault in a person....I know for me and perhaps you...there are many faults we have as well. So we continue on in life realizing none of us are perfect but that is what makes a friendship so exciting. I really am thankful that I have been able to move past these hurts and wow...the freedom I am experiencing in my life is so rewarding. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lessons From a Bird Feeder

There is a verse in the Bible found in Matthew 6:26(NIV) that states "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

This is a picture right outside my kitchen window. It is a gathering place for squirrels, birds and rabbits (do you see the rabbit on the ground?). There is another finch feeder just out of the picture along with a bird feeder in the front yard just outside the picture window. It really is a cool thing to have by the window while sitting down to enjoy a meal. My kids (3 and 4) love all of the different birds and critters that come. Interestingly enough though is how fast the bird feeder can run out of food. At any given time there will be upwards of 10 birds feeding off the ground or from the feeder. What happens when the food runs out though?

There comes a point (usually on Thursday or Friday) that I have to put on my boots and walk out to the feeders in order to reload them. This afternoon something quite interesting happened. I had a cardinal and a finch swooping down on my head while I was giving them their food. It literally got to the point where I said "you dumb chickens! Don't you know what I am doing for you!?" It was at that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks. A new lesson to be learned in this old scripture verse.

You see, I think the birds would have much rather had the food magically appear. Why? Because it would not upset them. It would mean they could carry on like always without having to take a risk. In their little bird brains they see a guy coming and taking down their feeder and equate it to the idea their food source is gone. Much to their surprise, I am quite confident they are happy to see their feeders go back up with an abundance of food with even more in the garage when needed. They didn't have to ask or beg for it...I simply saw it was out and reloaded it.

Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Does this come from a lifestyle of begging and only talking to him when in need? Probably not. It comes from having an ongoing relationship with him. We may see blessings come in different ways that we are not used to and this may cause us to panic. Perhaps we may even swoop down because we do not know what is going on. Thankfully God never says "YOU DUMB CHICKENS! DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT I AM DOING FOR YOU!?" Rather he sees our humanity and still gives us what we need. The beauty of it? Just like this gathering ground for the birds, squirrels, bunnies, etc. all are welcome into this relationship...ALL!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Self Help Naysayers

People get so upset with others when they decide to take care of themselves. According to ABC News over 25% of books sold are “Self-help”. The question I always have is how many of those people are actually putting what they read into action? It kind of is like watching “Biggest Loser” on TV while enjoying your favorite ice cream snack. There is not doubt this trickles into all areas of life (yes...even into churches...more on that in another blog). Self-help can be a good thing but can also be the end of you as well. 

I began to notice this in the summer of 2012 when I decided to lose some weight. It really was one of those moments for me where I just needed to do it. I visited the doctor, got my levels checked and realized I was a couple clicks off from being on the high end of all levels. That was all the motivation I needed to drop some pounds. I literally bought a bike, downloaded the “Fitness Pal” app and began doing something about it. By the time November rolled around, I was literally at my high school graduation weight...I lost 30+ pounds. In January of this year my wife presented me with a new family challenge after watching “Vegucated” on Netflix. She was wondering if I would want to try the vegan lifestyle. This beef eating, ice cream loving guy had a bit of hesitancy but overall I was so ready for a change. After being bored with regular food I was more than happy to explore this healthier lifestyle. I must say that the first week of being a vegan was tough. Now we are in it and I admit that I don’t foresee us going back. I continue to lose weight and feel awesome on this whole foods, plant based diet. Don’t worry...we get our proper nutrients. No need for the endless comments and questions. 

This is what happens though when you decide to do something for you. Be it a vacation, stay-cation, diet, exercise, etc. People get downright uncomfortable around you. If you are reading your favorite self-help book and don’t put a stitch of it into practice...you are fine. If you decided to watch a documentary or read a book and put it into practice...get ready for backlash. Now I must admit there are others who truly admire what you do. There are many more though that speak from other places more than likely on a topic you are researched quite well. When we decided to go vegan we knew many people that became backyard nutritionists all of a sudden. These were the ones that only eat primarily meat, have other health complications and easily outweigh me on a scale. None the less...they are offering us nutritional advice. Yes...we take it with a grain of salt. This happens when a person goes on vacation. In some circles you merely mention the fact that you are heading out somewhere and you will get comments from those who simply cannot or have not gone on vacation for years. Somehow they lash out at you for something they cannot experience.

On Friday, March 14th I decided to reminisce about the days before internet. You know...the days before cell phones where if you weren’t home it was okay. If you didn’t pick up your phone it usually meant you were out. I missed those days and thought to myself what it would be like to relive those times. In regards to social networking, I wanted to remember what it was like before those days. It was simply astonishing how uncomfortable this made people. I literally had to delete my Facebook app off my iPhone and iPad so that I could not get updates. There were a few encouraging notes but for every 1 nice note 2 negative ones came in. This simply proved my point that some people cannot deal with a person that puts up boundaries (hmm...sounds like a book title) in their life. To actually read a self-help book or implement their own self-help idea is utterly inconceivable. For the person that says “yes...I have devotions and take prayer walks” only to be met by someone whose life is so lazy or over busy and get rude comments is the sad state we live in. This is what social networking has done to us today. It has made us into a people where if you are down and out...you will have many friends. If you decide to post positive updates and see the bright side of life...it must be an act. 

Let me encourage you to do what YOU want to do. What are you wanting to do in order to help you be all you can be? Don’t let the naysayers be your Lord and go for what is going to help you. I am so thankful that I did this and quite honestly...I am not sure I am ready to return to the social networking world the same way I left. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Life And It's Greatest Pain

Maybe it’s because I am reading more introspective books but I have to admit, I have had a pretty good first half of life. There is still that one thing that confuses me and, well, is downright hurtful and saddening. 

Let me begin with the good stuff. From baby on I have been raised in a Christian home by two wonderful parents that to this day remain married. Both are in their 70’s. I have an older brother that remains one of my best friends. He has allowed me the awesome honor of being an uncle. My parents raised me in a church that I never “strayed away” from. The Assemblies of God has been nothing but good to me and to this day I am still a part. I still hold my ministerial credential with them because they are (in my opinion) the best. From my very first job as a toy store employee to the days of working in Christian bookstores, I have enjoyed life. It was during those bookstore years that I had many opportunities that were very unique. From preaching the chapel services pre-race at the Milwaukee mile to being Reggie White’s personal page while he spoke at the governors prayer breakfast in Milwaukee back in the day...it was awesome. My youth pastors gave me many excellent opportunities as well which I am forever grateful. I gave up EVERY Friday night from the age 18-21 to be the DJ of Milwaukee’s largest Christian skate night held every Friday night hosting 400+ people a week. I have had many opportunities. My uncle Nat Olson was the one that inspired me to become a pastor and quite honestly...he inspired me to be an author as well. Being a full time youth pastor at the age of 22 was certainly a highlight for me. I got married a few years later! This has been truly my proudest moment next to adopting two great children. While being married I have spoken at Cornerstone music festival twice, Lifest once, the Royal Ranger 50th anniversary Pow-Wow (yes I still call it that) and so much more. I have been able to officiate over 30 marriages and helped families through funerals as well. I could go on and on about all of the adventure and blessings I have seen so far in my life. There still remains though that one thing that leaves me hurt, confused and quite honestly sadder and sadder the older I get. 

Isn’t it ironic how scenarios play out in this ongoing drama we call “Life”? I am a pastor and get to do many baby dedications. My wife is a neo-natal intensive care unit nurse and works with babies all day every day. She even sacrifices her time on days she could have off to make sure these little premies have the best start. There is still one area I have yet to experience with my wife...that is having a baby naturally. I adore my kids and am thankful for the day God brought them into our life to be adopted...it truly is a God story. James and Emma are biological brother and sister. We got James at 9 months old and Emma only 4 months later. They are my pride and joy, yet...there is always two questions I have. First question is, what would my biological kid look like? The second question is, what gives, God? That whole Genesis 1:28 talk about being fruitful and multiply? Yeah...it’s not working for us. I cannot tell you how hurtful it is when people tell me “don’t be discouraged, you are raising a bunch of spiritual children as a pastor.” No...I am helping people on a faith journey. Tracy and I are always wanting to celebrate with those who announce a pregnancy but just like the scene from “Julie and Julia”, Julia Child’s gets the letter that her sister is expecting and responds “Oh, I am just so happy for her!” Meanwhile her husband gets up from the dinner table to hold her because she is also crying due to the fact they cannot have their own. It becomes more and more of a reality that as I am turning 40 in just over a year that this simply may not be a path I will get to walk down in life. Each month that passes, I tell my wife “I really thought this was going to be the month.”

I have experienced a lot of hurt in my life...who hasn’t? From poor decisions in my single days to storms no pastor should have to walk through. I have had friendships ruined because people forget the number one rule “THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY” and all they hear is one and instantly are swayed. I lived through a house explosion that defined my call into ministry and on and on the list goes. The blessings though are even more numerous. None the less life goes on. 

So there you have it. Yes, “St. Sunshine” (a name given to me on Facebook) has one thing that is always jabbing him in the heart. Sadly though I am finding it to be true as I reach the second half of my life and coming to grips with it that some things are not meant to be...even if you were raised thinking they were a promise in the Bible. I found out very quickly that not all the promises in the Bible are for us today. So I will keep on loving my wife...the very reason I get up in the morning. I will keep on adoring these two little munchkins running around my house that want me to wrestle with them and button up their jammies at night. It is my joy and honor to continue pastoring a great church in Waupaca that I have been at for almost 10 years now and love with everything in me. I will continue to take the hits as they come but as the great blues artist Rev. Dan Smith sang “take every knock as a boost, every stumbling block as a stepping stone. Lift up your head and hold your own and just keep going on.” 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mutually Assured Destruction

There is a verse found in Matthew 7:2 that goes like this "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." It seems that many would assume that this applies to when we die and stand before God awaiting that scene from "Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames" to see if we are going to Heaven or Hell. Not the most accurate portrayal. None the less this is usually how this verse is interpreted. 

Awhile ago I did a message entitled, "A Biblical Perspective on Karma." What Karma believes (in a nutshell) is the phrase "what goes around, comes around." It seems I have read something similar to that in the scriptures as well. In fact just a few verses down in Matthew 7:12 it says "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Do you see where this is going? 

We all have something in our closet that if ever it came out the consequences could be devastating. Perhaps it is a thought or something you have actually done. Either way...it would not be good. These are areas where grace can go a long way. 

I remember sitting at a round table discussion with Pastor Ted Haggard and a handful of other pastors back in October. One pastor from Colorado said, "at our church on our leadership team, we have what's called mutually assured destruction." Needless to say this peeked my interest and instantly reminded me of the comic from Mad Magazine called "Spy vs. Spy". He went on to explain that this mutually assured destruction is a simple concept and keeps everyone in check. Inevitably in any church, business, etc. you will have someone who wants to pull a power-play and try to stir up lots of garbage to promote them-self. This pastor simply said to his leadership team, "if you ever try to pull this with me...rest assured I know enough stories about you that you will go down." WOW! How can this be? Is this even "Christlike"? Then I was reminded of the verse in Matthew 7:2. 

Fact of the matter is that we are all on this faith journey together. The minute one of us thinks we have all of our stuff together is the moment we could easily be reminded of a non-flattering moment in our past. If we are going to point out and judge someone for what they did or didn't do...you ought to be ready for that person or someone else to bring to light something from your past as well. Personally I prefer to walk in grace realizing we are all a bunch of knuckleheads moving forward and forgetting the past but looking forward to the future with great anticipation and hope.