Thursday, December 31, 2009

Covenant Prayer

We are praying a Covenant Prayer this Sunday during worship as we commit or recommit ourselves to God. Is it a great prayer to pray anytime.

O God, Searcher of all our hearts,
you have formed us as a people and claimed us for your own.
As we come to acknowledge your sovereignty and grace,
and to enter anew into covenant with you,
reveal any reluctance or falsehood within us.
Let your Spirit impress your truth on our inmost being,
and receive us in mercy, for the sake of our Mediator, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own.
I will give up myself to your will in all things.
Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.
O God, you know that I make this covenant with you today
without guile or reservation.
If any falsehood should be in it, guide me and help me to set it aright.
And now, glory be to you, O God the Father,
whom I from this day forward shall look upon my God and Father.
Glory be to you, O God the Son,
who have loved me and washed me from my sins in your own blood,
and now is my Savior and Redeemer.
Glory be to you, O God the Holy Spirit,
who by your almighty power have turned my heart from sin to God.
O mighty God, the Lord Omnipotent, Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
you have now become my Covenant Friend.
And I, through your infinite grace, have become your covenant servant.
So be it. And let the covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.
-Adapted from the United Methodist Book of Worship

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After

Benjamin exploring the snow
This tunnel is about 15 feet long

The house after the blizzard

King of the hill

Friday, December 25, 2009


We were snowed in all day. It was a great way to spend Christmas - just the four of us.
The fireplace on Christmas morning

The boys letters and cookies for Santa

Getting ready to open the stockings

Taking a time-out for some love

Benjamin and Georgia

The weather outside

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

The snow and wind came as scheduled. We got our two Christmas Eve worship experiences in just in time. Here is my column from tonight. The audio will not be available.

Christmas Eve. It used to be my favorite day of the year. My parents, siblings, and I would take the one block walk to my grandparents. Grandpa got the fire going. We snooped around the Christmas tree to see what package had our name on it. We never formally ate. We just grazed on a smorgasbord of Norwegian food: lutefisk, kringle, lefse, raw oysters, meatballs, and rice pudding. The adults drank some concoction my grandpa mixed together. All I remember is that it was some kind of orange slushy thing that smelled funny. A nut was buried in the rice pudding. Whoever got the nut won a prize. Since I was the youngest, I usually won the prize. Ironically, the prize was a box of chocolate covered cherries, perhaps the only form of chocolate I don’t like.

Then my oldest brother took the stockings down from the fireplace mantle. We dug into our stockings and discovered small toys, books, and loads of sugar. Then I got to deliver the Christmas presents. Meticulously. One at a time. After each present was opened, we saved what could be reused of the wrapping paper and I burned the rest. As the boxes and wrapping paper heated the room, Grandpa gave me stern instructions of what package to deliver next.

As the fireplace cooled down, the presents were all put away, and the dishes were done—we went to church at 11:00 p.m. The little church would be packed full of people. It only happened a couple times a year. We sang Christmas songs, listened to the pastor ramble on, and lit candles as we sang Silent Night. It was a great way to spend a night.

Years later, I still love Christmas Eve. Life is much different now. I’m the pastor that rambles on. It is a busy time for me. But in the busyness, blessedness can be found.
  • Not under a tree, but in a manger.
  • Not in a catalog, buy in a Holy Book.
  • Not in Norwegian food and some smelly orange slush, but in bread and some grape juice.

Christmas Eve reminds me more than anything else about God’s grace. Undeserved merit. It’s nothing we can earn or take. It can only be given and received.

Grace is God’s idea. It is forgiveness from our past. Freedom in the present. Hope for the future. It is how the world began and it is how the world will end.

Christmas is a yearly reminder that God is with us. If we don’t know this, nothing else matters. If we do know this, nothing else matters.

Family, presents, food, hope, grace – enjoy them all and a have a Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Precious Baby

I did two funerals this week. One yesterday and one today. This morning's funeral was for a newborn child who died way too young. I want to share with you a small part of my message this morning:

Paul writes in Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

About twenty centuries ago, God chose to use a baby to give life to the world. And everyone from the skeptic to the saint knows that the world has never quite been the same since. Tomorrow night, billions of people will celebrate the birth of a child who died way too young.

Five nights ago, Caleb was born. Caleb gave new live to your world. The dozen or so of us who were there last Friday night will never look at the world quite the same again.

We touched and we saw the little fingers and toes. We saw one of the most beautiful children any of us have ever seen. We saw the preciousness of human life.

We won’t take life for granted anymore. We will cherish the moments that we have with each other.

Although Caleb is not with us physically, he will remain with us forever.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

David's Third Birthday

David is three today. It's hard to believe! He had a great day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Simple - Relate : Reconnect

Here are the notes from yesterday's sermon. We are sorry, but for the first time in three years, we had a problem with the recording and an audio recording is not available.

Recognize the importance of relationships

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. -Matthew 5:23-24

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. -Norwegian Proverb

The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships. -Anthony Robbins

Be authentically yourself and let the other person authentically be themselves

And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more. -Ruth 1:14-18

Don't smother each other. No one can grow in the shade. -Leo Buscaglia

Be real with each other

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. -James 5:16

Learn from and let go of the past

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. –Philippians 3:13

Relate to others today

So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. –Matthew 25:13

If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting? -Stephen Levine

Sunday, December 20, 2009

God us with Us

Christmas has its cultural customs. We decorate our trees. We buy presents for loved ones and put those presents under the trees and open the presents on Christmas morning. Radio stations play music that we only listen to in December. Scrooge. Miracle on 34th Street. Santa Claus. Family pictures. Baked goods. Sunday papers that are as thick as Federal Health Care Reform Bills. Christmas cards. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Christmas carols. A couple weeks off from school. Lutefisk and rice pudding. A little extra time with family.

Most of these are good, but I wonder if sometime we are missing the original meaning of Christmas.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.” –Matthew 1:23

The authors of the four Gospels rarely translate words for us. I only remember it happening a few times. But Immanuel is translated from its original Hebrew because the author doesn’t want us to miss this one: God is with us. Those four words—God is with us—either mean everything or they mean nothing. It is the difference between a few weeks in December that make us feel good about humanity and a life that is lived with God’s presence and power.

A number of years ago, early on Christmas morning, I returned home from the church I was serving at the time. The last Christmas Eve service concluded shortly before midnight. I greeted the people as they left and then drove home. Amber and Benjamin were both sleeping. I wrapped Amber’s gift and placed it under the tree. I couldn’t help but smell the fresh pine needles and the sap from the truck of the tree. I then looked at an ornament we have of a manger. It was right in front of my face. It was lost during that Christmas season up to that point. There were too many lights on the tree and too many other ornaments to compete with. There I was, in a holy place. With the busyness of the season, I almost missed it:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. –John 1

God is with us—He always has been and always will be. To the busy parent, the person who is alone, the addict, the hopeless, the hopeful, the dying, the living, the young, the old, the sinner, the saint, the bitter, the broken, the hurting, the proud, the hurter, the helpful, and the helpless—God is with us—full of grace and truth.

My prayer for us is that we don’t let life get in the way of recognizing that the One who gives us life is always with us.

Merry Christmas,


Friday, December 18, 2009

Disney, Day 9

Pluto and family - This breakfast was so good

Benny and Minnie

David's highlight

Benjamin and Chef Goofy

The boys in the Swiss Family Tree House

Leaving the Grand Floridian

Hanging out in the airport

David taking a nap in the airport

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Disney, Day 8

David is not liking this character pictures

The best turkey legs in the world

View from the train

Conductors for one stop

We can't keep the girls away from this kid

Norwegian Christmas Card

No comment

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disney, Day 6

Benjamin and the Princess

Benjamin and the hostess at Restaurant Akershus

The boys and the troll

The pool at Old Key West

More Old Key West

Still more Old Key West

Benjamin practicing being a caddie

Monday, December 14, 2009

Disney, Day 5

The Magic Kingdom early in the morning

Benjamin and Amber racing

Lunch at the Magic Kingdom

Benjamin and Donald

David at the parade

Evening fireworks

Family Christmas

Mickey and Minnie

Benjamin and Donald