I’m Not a Hugger

May 04th 2009

I would say that I don’t come from a family of huggers — but that’s not entirely true.  My mom and my sister are pretty decent huggers, but us guys not so much — at least not each other.  I’m guessing they probably hug their wives and their kids.  (Each of them only has one wife, it’s plural wives because it’s plural brothers.  Just wanted to make that clear.)  The first time I remember getting hugged by a guy who was not an immediate family member was a man named Doc Dalton.  (Just to make another thing clear — I’m not counting sports hugs, like touchdown hugs, winning shot of the basketball game hugs, or huddles, or wrestling takedowns.  Those don’t count.)  Anyway the first time he hugged me, it was kind of confusing, there wasn’t a football game within miles.  To be honest I grew to respect and appreciate Doc.  He became a good friend, and after four years of college, I was a little more comfortable with hugs — but still not a hugger.

Now, understand this.  I love to hug my wife and my kids.  I will not run away if you try to hug me.  And I will on occasion even initiate a hug if it you are celebrating a special occasion or going through a hard time.  But if a handshake or a clasp on the shoulder will do I’m okay with that.

So why a post on hugging?  I just ran across this article related to the swine flu.

Swine Flu:  No Touching at Church. If you don’t have time to read it, it’s about a church of 25,000 in Charlotte NC that has declared church a no-touching zone during the swine flu season.  I don’t know –

– I’m not a hugger and I know that there is a small chance the swine flu could turn into a pandemic — but I think declaring church a no-touch zone is a bit too risk aversive for a movement that is called by Jesus to storm the gates of hell and give our lives for a friend.

So this week, I’m gonna hug someone — but not a pig — that’s taking it too far.  :)

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A Little Bit of Fear

Apr 30th 2009

Have you ever seen the rip-offs of the inspirational wall-hangings?  Here’s one that I ran across recently on fear.  If you can’t read it, it says, “Until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will not know the terror of being forever lost at sea!

I went for a jog last night.  I went almost three miles in about 40 minutes, not exactly all-star material, but I worked up a good sweat, and for most of you reading this — just imagine carrying a 50 pound backpack for your 3 mile jog.  So I was coming home, less than half a block away and Delma was dropping Josh off after Xstream.  So I yelled out, “Hey little man, whatcha doing?”  He just kept walking, didn’t even respond.  I yelled out again, “Hey, can’t you even say hi?”  He just kept walking — a little faster.  I got up to the door and it was locked.  Not only would my son, not say hi to me, he locked me out.  So I started ringing the doorbell, knocking on the door.  Finally he came and opened the door — a sheepish grin on his face.  When I asked him why he didn’t say hi and why he locked the door, he said, “Dad I thought you were some strange guy, when you started yelling at me, I got scared.  I couldn’t get in the house quick enough.  My legs were shaking.”

My first thought was, “C-mon, why in the world would you be scared of that?”  But then I started thinking back to my days on the farm.  Dad would ask me to go check on the pigs that were giving birth — seems like it was always late at night.  When I would come back from the barn to the house.  I would start walking normal — but by the time I got to the house, I was running as fast as I could, not daring to look back, certain that some night-time monster was right on my heels.  I was afraid and I didn’t even have a stranger yelling at me.

Fear does funny things to us.  That’s why we struggle a little bit with verses in the Bible that call us to fear God.  In fact one writer says that the “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”  So we like to tone down the word — because we also know that God is our father.  So we say that when it talks about fear in the Bible, it doesn’t really mean scared, it means respect or awe.  I think it means respect, awe and so scared that my knees are knocking!

But when we see God for all that He is — awesome, holy, loving, fearsome, father, Jesus — then I think that fear of God gives me courage for life.  I heard someone put it this way once — “If  you fear God, you will fear nothing else.  But if you don’t fear God you will be afraid of everything else.”

What or whom do you fear?

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Wrapping Your Arms

Apr 10th 2009

Patrick Morley tells the story of three men and a boy who were going fishing in Alaska.  They were flying into a section of wilderness that could only be reached by a sea plane.  But when they landed something went wrong with one of the floats.  Before long, the plane was sinking and all four of them had to jump from the plane into the sea.  Two men, a father and his son, began to swim for shore.  The water was so cold, but even worse was the powerful rip-tide pulling everything out to sea.   The three men were strong enuf to swim against the tide, but before long they realized the boy couldn’t make it.   The father of course swam back to help his son.  He thought he could pull him along and make it to shore.  But it soon became obvious to the father that nothing he could do was going to save his son.  His son was going to die.  The other 2 men watched in wonder as the father turned to them and waved them into shore, and then turned back around and wrapped his arms around his son as the rip-tide carried them both out to sea.

When I read this story, three thoughts come to mind, a statement and two questions.  First the statement:  I am fairly certain that I would do the same.  It isn’t so much because I know how courageous I am, as it is that I know how much I love my children.  I could not let one of them die alone.  Which leads me to the first question: How much does God love us, if He was willing to let his son die alone?  Or a similar question from the other side:  How much does Jesus love us, if he was willing to wrap his arms around us and not let go, even though it led him to death?

Which leads to my final question — an Easter question of sorts: What do we have our arms wrapped around?  To what or whom are we giving our lives?  Some of us have wrapped our arms around stuff that isn’t leading us to life.  What are your arms wrapped around?

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Life Without Walls

Mar 18th 2009

Looks can be deceiving.  My grandfather John Nold got polio when he was young.  It left him crippled. Every memory I have of Big Grandpa — yep that’s right, my dad’s folks were Big Grandma and Big Grandpa and my mom’s folks were Little Grandma and Little Grandpa — every memory of Big Grandpa included a cane and a shoe with a leg brace.  He didn’t get around too fast or too well, but he could use that cane with deadly force!  I felt it around my leg, arm and even neck on more than one occasion!

But one thing he did even better than catch runaway grandkids with a cane, he caught my imagination with his stories.  I remember going out to his trailer before school.  I would sit with him and watch for the bus — I was about six or seven — and he would tell me stories.  Stories about the road, following the harvest, riding the rails, and campfire meals with hobos.  As a young boy there was not much better than Grandpa’s stories.

Through those stories my Grandpa left me a love for the journey and a passion for adventure.  I dreamed for hours about Huck Fin and his river raft.  My favorite show was and still is Star Trek and “it’s on going mission.” This wanderlust has not always confined itself to the safer roads of my imagination.  While in college, I hitchhiked home once.  I spent most of the time in a light rain on the back of a Harley Davidson with a biker who stopped about every 10 miles for a beer…now that was a trip…it increased my prayer life exponentially.

As I grew older and a little more perceptive, I came to realize my grandpa’s life was not quite so glamorous as my childhood imagination painted it. Life on the road was really the journey of an alcoholic abandoning his family, leaving home for long periods of time — a combination of running from, and in some ways desperately seeking home.  Gilbert Bilzekian writes, “The silent churning at the core of our being is the tormenting need to know and be known, to understand and be understood,…to belong unconditionally and forever without the fear of loss, betrayal or rejection.

What we are seeking is love unbounded.  Love without limits.  We want to know that we are not outside the boundaries of somebodies heart.  Can someone out there love me without limits?  But in fact, it’s even more than that.  It’s good to know that I can be real with you and not face rejection.  But it’s not enough, I want to be loved in a way that changes me.  Aren’t we all seeking a love that makes us whole?

Near the end of his life, my grandpa found that love.  He opened up his arms to Jesus.  His marriage was restored and his story was redeemed.  He found the home that he was seeking.  How about you?  Where are you questing for life?  Where is your home?  That place where you are loved without limits?  This week we are starting a new teaching series at Calvary…  LIfe Without Walls. Hope you join us online or in person.  There is a life that God designed for us that is an overflowing kind of life…it’s a life without walls.

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Christmas Experts

Nov 28th 2008

Experts Still Predict Dismal Holiday Season — I just read that headline in our Centre Daily Times — black Friday issue — and before I read the article, the first thought in my mind was…which experts?  Was it the Kindness Experts and were they predicting that this Christmas season fewer people will do something nice this Christmas season?  Was it the Generosity Experts and the prediction is an increase of the Scrooge-like mentality?  Was it the Family Experts predicting that fewer families would gather on Christmas day to spend time together?  Or perhaps it was the Worship Experts predicting that fewer people would be moved by Silent Night, Holy NIght, that fewer people will ponder the incredible wonder of God-in-the-flesh born in a manger, that for some reason Christmas Eve worship gatherings would lack a sense of awe?

Local Kohls 4am rush

Local Kohls 4am rush

No of course not, it was the Economic Experts.  Black Friday ushers in the holiday shopping season —  This is NOT a black friday rant.  Many people whom I love, celebrate the day in many diverse and unusual ways, have fun mom :)  — and the concern is that the dismal economic outlook threatens to keep shoppers credit cards securely in their pocket.  All I want to say is that as counter-intuitive as it might seem, keeping our credit cards in our wallets might ultimately lead to great Christmas and a much less dismal new year.

If our Christmas is to go deeper than the economy, we probably need to start with some true Christmas experts, like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  That’s right, go back to the beginning the ancient, authentic stories of Christmas.  Then check out a couple of websites like Rethinking Christmas or Advent Conspiracy.  Then take a moment or two…or three or four and dream about the kind of Christmas season you would like to experience this year.  Finally make a plan, don’t overdo it… this isn’t meant to be an added stress-list.  Start with just two or three things that you want to do differently this year.

Let me know what you come up with… and let’s confound the experts.

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How I Voted

Nov 04th 2008

I had a number of people asking me over the course of the last few weeks… How are you going to vote? And if you have read any of my blog posts, you may have picked up on the fact that I’ve been pondering whether or not I should even vote.  More specifically I’ve been pondering, What is the proper way for a citizen of the Kingdom of God to be involved politically as a citizen of the United States?

So I just wanted to let those who care know… I did vote.  It was about 1pm.  There was no line.  I slipped in and out of 1250 University Drive — our church facility — without even being recognized.  Filled in my circles, put it through the scanner, told the wonderful volunteers thank you and headed out.  Final step still to be completed, getting my free cup of coffee at Starbucks.  I also thought about driving to Altoona for my free Krispy Kreme but decided it was too far.  So let me tell you how I voted.

1) I voted with gratitude. As easy as it is to see the problems in this country — that is not my final destination but is my current home — we are one of the few places on the face of the earth where there is consistently such a people-directed smooth transitioning of power.  I am thankful for that.  In addition I am thankful for all the Jesus-followers who are living out their calling in areas of government.  It is an incredible mission field.

2) I voted with a bit of heaviness on my heart. There are so many issues facing us as a people, as a culture and as a country.  But my heaviness comes less from the issues and more from my conviction that if our nation is in an unhealthy place the responsibility lies first at our feet — the church.   An early Christian author once wrote, As the soul is to the body, so Christians must be to the world. Or I would put it this way — the church is the heart of the city.  As the heart goes, so goes the city.  So if our cities are sick with greed or other diseases, doesn’t it start with the heart?

3) I voted wishing that I could trust that whoever won would tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear. Enough said on that one!

4) I voted with a sense of satisfaction that no matter who wins, we take a small step in a healing direction. What do I mean by that?  I mean that we will either vote into office a woman or an African American.  Less than 140 years ago, you had to be a white male just to vote, let alone run for office.  Discrimination has brought so many wounds to the hearts of people and our culture.  To elect a woman to the vice presidency or an African American to the presidency is a small healing step.

5) I voted with a sense of relief. The ads, the debates, the news articles, the ads, switching between CNN and Fox to hear both sides of the story, the ads, the yard signs, the late night jokes, a billion dollars spent on ads… did I mention the ads?  Anyway…it’s all done.  (Unless of course we get a tie. :)

6) I voted with not one bit of anxiety over who wins. The first presidential election I remember was Richard Nixon’s second.  From Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush, Clinton and Bush, I have yet to see one president who is purely evil or one president who is purely righteous.  I have yet to see a president who hasn’t made me glad that Jesus is King.  I think that’s the main reason I’m not very anxious about what tomorrow holds. Proverbs 21:1 says that the King’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs like a watercourse wherever he pleases. I pretty much believe that!  Takes away a lot of the stress.

7)  I voted as a guy with permanent citizenship in the Kingdom of God and guest citizenship in the United States. I’m still trying to figure out everything that means but I know it means this:  I did not vote as though the Kingdom of God depends upon my vote.  The hope of the world is not the United States and the hope of the United States is neither John McCain or Barack Obama.  The hope of the world is Jesus and we get to partner with him in transformational callings every day.  There were issues in this election that I am very passionate about…but I believe that the only way to bring change is by Jesus working through the church.

8)  I voted with a determination that tomorrow, no matter what, tomorrow I will pray for and honor whoever is President. I cannot find a place in the Bible where it says that all committed Jesus-followers should vote.  But I do find in 1 Timothy 2:2 that I am called to pray for all those in authority and I do find in Romans 13:1-7 that I am called to honor, respect and submit to governing authorities because they have been placed there by God.

9)  I voted in anticipation of getting a free Starbucks coffee. Sorry just had to throw that one in there.

10) I voted with these words from Jesus as my foundation. They will know you are my disciples (not by your party affiliation, or by the placard in your yard, or even by the issues you hold dear) by the love you have for each other. Tomorrow (hopefully tomorrow) when the last vote is counted and the last pundit has spun his/her spin.  It is still ultimately about the capacities of our hearts to love God, love each other and love our world.

So that’s how I voted.  Oh, you wanted to know who I voted for?  That’s a whole other blog, which will probably never be written!  :) 

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Living the Dream

Oct 24th 2008

I love that picture.  It gives me a sense of freedom, potential, opportunity.  I’m not sure if you can tell or not, but it’s a sunrise, not a sunset.  The day is just beginning, full of possibilities.  That’s what our new series is about.  It starts this weekend.  I’m so looking forward to spending the next 5 weeks talking about the dreams God has for our lives.

When I was a kid, my dream was to be a professional football player.  During high school, it changed.  Starting to think I might not be fast enough, big enough or strong enough for professional football, I turned my heart toward coaching.  I was going to teach math and coach football.  But then I got to college and that silly math major was requiring too much — studying.  So I dropped it.  Studying was not what I came to college for to do.  But then I’ll never forget my first theology class in college.  I loved it.  Soon after that my dream was to teach theology and coach football.  I know.  Where was I planning on putting those two things together?  Then I went to seminary; thought I was going for my phd but ended up in a church; thought being a pastor was going to be a short-term gig, but you know how that ended up.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I loved being a pastor and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with so much passion.  That’s when I knew what direction I needed to journey to live my dream.

Over the course of the last decade+ God has refined the dream.  Building a church without walls to serve the Centre Region and beyond…all the way to God.

I believe that during the next five weeks, some of us are going to take huge strides to living the dream.  Invite a friend and come to Calvary.

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Enjoy His Pleasures

Oct 09th 2008

There is an ancient rabbinical saying that goes something like this…  God will one day hold us accountable for all the things He created for us to enjoy, but we refused to do so. Wow! Did it ever occur to you that God wants us to enjoy His pleasures?  Could it be that our enjoyment of His pleasures is as important to Him as our accomplishment of his purposes?  Well I have to say that I have had many moments during my sabbatical to enjoy His pleasures…here are just a few of the joys I experienced during my sabbatical.

– Watching sunsets in Minnesota, the Black Hills, New York City, Estonia, and Hawaii.
– Riding in the front seat of an incredibly intense wooden roller coaster with Josh.
– Boating on a lake with my family.
– Time to read.
– Experiencing Discovery Cove with my family.
– A cabin on a lake in Minnesota.
– Rock climbing with Jake.
– Watching Legally Blonde with Katy and Sarah.
– Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Hana — I’m pretty sure that’s what OT manna was…
– Talking about leadership with Wayne Cordiero and Reggie McNeal.
– Swimming in the Oheo Gulch ponds below a waterfall.
– My first vacation alone with Lynn — the highlight of my sabbatical.
– Flatbread pizza in Paii, Hawaii.
– Eating fresh grilled steaks on a little lanai overlooking Hamoa Bay.
– Sitting around the campfire with Jake.
– Talking to Estonian pastors about building a church without walls.
– Hanging out with a Bill Ankerberg in Estonia — a pastor I deeply respect.
– Playing in the ocean with Lynn.
– Watching Josh play football.
– Doing a baptism in the ocean off Waikiki beach.
– Seeing the look on Sarah and Katy’s face when the limo drove up.
– Reading the Bible in big chunks at a time.
– Long talks with Lynn.
– Preaching in Estonia and watching people come forward.
– Hearing how well Calvary has done in my absence.

So what pleasures has God created for you to enjoy?  Are you missing them or grabbing them with both hands?  You don’t have to take a sabbatical to enjoy His pleasures, but you do have to take the time.

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Loving Being a Dad

Sep 27th 2008

Today is one of those days when I’m just loving being a dad…and I’m not even home!  Some of you might be thinking — well of course — it’s easy loving being a dad when you’re in Hawaii — with your wife — without your kids — and feasting your eyes on God’s creation of beauty (that includes Lynn!).  Well okay…that might be the case.  But let me tell you why I’m really loving being a dad today.  I’ll go in order, oldest first.

Sarah: Sarah loves her sister Katy.  So this weekend she sacrificed a little of her money (and a little of mine) and a lot of her time (none of mine) to drive to Minnesota to surprise Katy with her presence (and Lauren’s presence too).  Katy cried.  Today they are at the Mall of America.  I cried.  (Sarah has my credit card.)  Every father loves seeing his kids love each other.

Katy: Katy is the first one of our family to take the big leap and leave home.  Some of you know that’s not exactly an easy thing to do.  She moved to Minnesota to go to college at Bethel University.  Last week she got her first A on a test…psychology.  She’s learning psychology, but she’s also learning about life.  She’s experienced a little bit of homesickness but she’s doing great.  Every father loves seeing his kids gain wisdom.

Jake:  Jake went kayaking this week…on the Youghigany (I know I probably didn’t spell that right, but I’m in a hurry and it’ got a lot of vowels) in the rapids.  You gotta face your fears and be willing to take a risk to do something like that.  He rolled the kayak a few times, banged his head on the rocks a few times, but he made it.  He took the risk, pushed his capacities and came out on the other side with a deeper sense of courage.  Every  father loves seeing his kids grow in courage.

Josh: I was on the phone with Josh this morning at 1:30am (Hawaii time) wishing him well for his football game in the Assemblies of God league.  I hate missing games and this week they played the vaunted silver team.  Two weeks ago silver beat us by 28 points.  Josh called me at half-time (4am Hawaii time).  They were ahead.  Then I talked to him again at 5:30am (Hawaii time) and we had beaten silver.  Josh even threw a couple of touchdown passes.  It made my morning!  And you know what every father loves to see his kids persevere.  Get back up when you fail and go for it again.

Every father — think about this, God is our father — loves to see his kids grow in love, wisdom, courage and perseverance.  And right now, at this moment, I’m loving being a dad.  And it makes me want to give God the same kind of moment.

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(American) Football

Sep 12th 2008

Is there any other kind you ask?  Well apparently in Estonia, they think that the only kind of football is soccer.  I told the Estonian pastors that Mike Ditka — former coach of the Chicago Bears — once said that if God had intended for people to play soccer he would not have created arms!  They laughed — a little.

Last week Josh’s team — the Green Eagles — won their first football game.  It was great fun cheering them on and great fun watching my son hit like a crazy man!  They beat the Golden Bears…but here I am in Estonia and Josh is playing at this moment and I can’t be there.  Don’t really like that.  But I keep calling Lynn’s cell phone — thank goodness for Skype’s 2 cents a minute plan from anywhere in the world — for updates.  It’s raining the proverbial cats and dogs there and my team isn’t doing so good.

I don’t usually pray for the weather, so it’s okay if it rains, we probably need it.  But I do find myself praying for sports teams…especially when one of my kids are playing…and they’re behind like they are right now.  I know there are probably dads from the other team who are praying for their sons as well.  I’ll let God sort it out, all I know is that James said, You have not because you ask not. Actually I’m okay if they lose, I just want Josh to play his best and have fun.

There is actually a great deal that we can learn about being a Jesus-follower from sports.  I think when I come back in October I’m going to spend a couple of weeks preaching about the verse that is on our walls… finish the race with joy. I’m pretty sure that if (American) football would’ve been invented in Paul’s day, he would’ve said something like.. play the fourth quarter with great joy!

Anyway… during my sabbatical I’ve been thinking a fair amount about that verse… finish the race with joy. What race does God have for you?  What will it take to not only finish the race…but finish the race with joy?

Wish I could be there Josh…but for now…my prayer is simply finish the fourth quarter with joy!

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