Monday, May 31, 2010


A vision is not just a picture of what could be in the future; vision is an appeal to make our lives and the lives of others better, more significant, and more meaningful. The Bible tells us where vision doesn’t exist, people perish. (Proverbs 29:18) When people aren’t moving forward—making our lives and the lives of others better, more significant, and more meaningful—we are perishing.

I recently spoke at a conference for college aged students. I challenged the students to create a vision for their lives. I challenged them that they wouldn’t be limited by their ability in life. They would only be limited by their vision. I told them of my good friend and former training partner Kurt Fiene. Kurt is legally blind. Kurt won the visually impaired division at the Boston Marathon in 2009. In his mid 40s, Kurt not only beat all the visually impaired runners, he beat over 95% of runners who can see fine. What Kurt lacks in the ability to see he more than makes up for with vision in his mind.

Vision looks inward and becomes duty. Vision looks outward and becomes aspiration. Vision looks upward and becomes faith. –Stephen Wise

I thought about those college students. I hope that night for some of them was a defining moment in their life when they can look back and say they figured out who God wanted them to be and they started becoming that person. When the students were praying and sharing about vision for their lives, I thought about what God wants for The Water’s Edge in its mission to make lives of people better, more significant, and more meaningful. And I have been thinking about that a lot since then.

We are at a crossroads of sorts. This fall, in an attempt to reach more people, we will be adding a 9:00 worship experience. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do. We are also going to relaunch our small groups. If you are not volunteering on Sunday morning or in a small group, I encourage you to get involved. I sincerely believe these practices make our lives better, more significant, and more meaningful.

Last night, I read the Parable of the Lost Sheep. I know that God wants us to reach out to and minister to hurting people, people who don’t consider a relationship with God an option for their lives, and people who have been hurt by the church. I see us building wells in Africa, supporting orphanages in Eastern Europe, developing a network of small groups throughout Omaha, running a recovery ministry where addicted people can receive the support of others and the power of God.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I remember all those miles I ran with a blind guy who had a vision not to be limited by his ability. And, I remember that our God is a really big God and we can do all things through him.

The best is yet to come…


Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

Here is my column for Sunday morning:

Death. It’s something we don’t like to think about. Maybe it’s the mystery. Maybe it’s the finality. Maybe it’s saying goodbye forever, at least as we know it in this world.

I’ve done two funerals this week, so I have been thinking about death. Both stories were different. They always are because each life is different. All of us are living a unique life. Our life will never be repeated. We all leave a unique fingerprint on the world. People are different, but God remains the same:
  • Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. –John 14:1-2
  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. –Psalms 23:4
  • He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. –Revelation 21:4
On Wednesday evening, a longtime friend of mine died in a bicycling accident. Accidents like this don’t seem fair and they are not. Questions of why will never be sufficiently answered this side of the grave. Only when we replace the question of why? with the question of Who? will our lives ever start to make sense again. Who has prepared a place of us? Who will walk with us in times of trouble and who will comfort us? Who will wipe the tears from our eyes?

Whenever one thinks about death one also has to think about life. And I think about my friend and his life. His two boys know him as dad. And he was about as good as they come. He was a science teacher. Hundreds of people sat in his classes. Some were inspired to become chemists, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors because of Al. Others simply saw a man teaching a subject he loved to students he loved even more. We saw patience, compassion, excellence, honesty, and servanthood. Al may have been paid to teach chemistry and physics, but his vocation and his calling was to teach about life. This former student gives the teacher an A+.

Monday is Memorial Day. We honor and remember those who have gone before us. We remember the lessons they taught us, the love they gave us, and the life they lived: imperfect people who joined us on this journey called life. And we remember God, who in all His perfection, is with us and will always be with us.

In Christ,


Thursday, May 27, 2010

June's Bible Reading Plan

The Parables of Jesus

June 1 The Wise and the Foolish Builders
Matthew 7:24-27

June 2 The Parable of The Lost Sheep
Luke 15:1-7

June 3 The Parable of The Wheat and the Tares
Matthew 13:24-30

June 4 The Mustard Seed and the Yeast
Luke 13:18-21

June 5 Drawing in the Net
Matthew 13:47-50

June 6 The Parable of The Sower
Mark 4:1-20

June 7 The Unmerciful Servant
Matthew 18:21-35

June 8 The Faithful Servant
Luke 12:35-48

June 9 The Parable of The Two Sons
Matthew 21:28-32

June 10 The Parable of The Tenants
Matthew 21:33-46

June 11 The Parable of The Wedding Feast
Matthew 22:1-14

June 12 The Fig Tree
Matthew 24:32-36

June 13 The Parable of The Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13

June 14 The Parable of The Talents
Matthew 25:14-30

June 15 The Parable of the Growing Seed
Mark 4:26-29

June 16 The Two Debtors
Luke 7:41-47

June 17 The Rich Man and Lazarus
Luke 16:19-31

June 18 The Friend at Night
Luke 11:5-8

June 19 The Rich Fool
Luke 12:16-21

June 20 Laborers in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1-16

June 21 The Parable of The Barren Fig Tree
Luke 13:6-9

June 22 The Guests
Luke 14:7-15

June 23 Building a Tower and Waging War
Luke 14:28-33

June 24 Lost Money
Luke 15:8-10

June 25 The Parable of The Prodigal Son
Luke 15:11-32

June 26 The Parable of The Dishonest Steward
Luke 16:1-9

June 27 The Good Samaritan
Luke 10:30-37

June 28 The Master and the Servant
Luke 17:7-10

June 29 The Parable of the Widow and the Judge
Luke 18:1-8

June 30 The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Luke 18:9-14

June's Bible reading plan will focus on the Parables of the Bible. The Sundays are in bold and coincide with the parable for that day’s sermon.

Follow my blog for a daily word about each day’s reading.

The next 30 days will allow us to investigate God's Word and put into practice some biblical principles in major areas of our lives. I encourage you to use the following SOAP method of reading the Bible.

Complete the "S" by reading the scripture. Don't just skim through it, but really think about what it means. Imagine what the people involved were experiencing. Write down a verse or two that really stood out to you in your journal.

Complete the "O" by writing down observations about the scripture you just read. You may want to write your own summary of the passage, but more importantly, think about what God has to say to you through this part of his word.

Complete the "A" by writing down how this Bible passage applies to you right now, in your daily life. For example, in the parable about the prodigal son, which character do you identify with most: the loving and merciful father, the son who squanders his life and then repents or the resentful older brother? Do you see similar situations in your life right now? How can you respond in the way Jesus taught?

Complete the "P" by writing down a prayer. This is a personal message from you to God, so don't worry about getting the perfect words down. Just make it honest and heartfelt. Remember that God always listens, and already knows your needs. He just wants to hear from you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Graduation Day

Benjamin checking out my seat

Benjamin doing a last minute inspection. Students from 19 countires graduated.

At the processional

Being hooded

Benjamin is almost as glad as his dad that this is over!

David reading after the graduation

Checking out the fountain

Friday, May 21, 2010


I will graduate on Saturday. Amber, Benjamin, David, and I are driving to Lexington, Kentucky this week (pray for us by the way – that is a long trip!) to attend a few dinners, receptions, a chapel service, and the commencement service. We are looking forward to see the place we used to live—at least the three oldest members of our family. I want to thank all of the people who prayed for me and encouraged me as I finished my dissertation.

I thought I would share the Cliff Notes of my paper: 165 pages on the use of humor and public speaking condensed into a mere 2 pages.

The God of Isaac (Yishaq), which is translated as laughter, is the God of Israel. Conrad Hyers explains the humor associated with the previous sentence:

The history of Israel begins—if it does not sound too impious—with a joke, a divine joke. The laughter of Abraham and Sarah at this joke was not so much a laughter of unbelief as of disbelief, as when we say “You can’t be serious” or “You’ve got to be kidding.” Yet it was a laughter that became the laughter of faith. Abraham and Sarah would be less inclined in the future to declare the impossible. And their laughter, in turn, would become the laughter of faith and hope for generations to follow. (And God Created Laughter 10)

God gave laughter to Sarah. Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:5). Sarah had stopped dreaming that she and Abraham would have a baby, but the Lord was gracious to Sarah and did for Sarah “exactly what he had promised” (Genesis 21:1). God later told Moses that “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). The Hebrew reader understands that Laughter (Isaac) is the father of Israel (Jacob).

The Gospels are serious, but seriousness does not exclude the expression of joy or the use of humor. A better understanding of life, self, and God can be attained when a person is able to recognize humor in the Bible.

Another form of humor that Jesus used was overstatement. Jesus responded to the question of “How difficult is it for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of heaven?” with an exaggeration: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). The disciples were astonished by Jesus’ response and then asked him, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Jesus answered the disciples with a surprise of grace: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Jesus used exaggeration during this conversation to teach the disciples that they could not save themselves—saving people is something God does.

The sorrow of Good Friday is replaced by the joy and laughter of Easter Sunday.

Profane humor can cause pain and profane humor can also prevent people from appropriately dealing with pain.

Humor can be playful and it can be serious. While humor is not always appropriate, one cannot say that it is never appropriate. God wants his children to laugh. The Bible is clear that a “time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) exists. People can be too serious. The Church should most definitely take God seriously but not take itself so seriously. Humor can be instrumental in urging the Church not to take itself so seriously.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22).

Excess stress and anxiety are barriers to personal, professional, and spiritual growth as well as barriers to healing. Humor relaxes by relieving anxiety and breaking down barriers to learning and growth.

Boredom is a hindrance to effective communication. Humor is one remedy to boredom. People have a negative response to material that is predictable, tedious, unengaging, and dry.

Another potential danger of using humor is the ineffective attempted use of humor. Attempted humor that is not humorous puts the speaker in a very awkward position.

Participants were asked to respond true or false to the following statement: “There is a lot of laughter in our church.” In high-quality growing churches, 68 percent of the participants responded true to the statement while participants in low-quality declining churches responded true at only a 33 percent rate.

High humor orientation is a socially desirable trait. Instructional communication research confirms this suggestion because people declare a sense of humor in numbers in excess of what is possible.

Humor makes listeners feel positive toward the speaker, promotes a sense of community, boosts listener morale, lowers stress, creates a healthy environment for learning, and relaxes defenses.

High and low humor orientation listeners will learn equally well from high humor orientation speakers, however, high humor orientation listeners will not learn as well from low humor orientation speakers. Also, both high and low humor orientation listeners prefer listening to the high humor orientation speaker.

The results from the research project indicated that 2.4 percent of the total variation in affective learning is from perceived humor orientation, 3.1 percent of the total variation in affective learning is from relational solidarity, and 19.5 percent of the total variation in affective learning is from ethos. The research implies that perceived ethos best predicts affective learning.

Ethos is the credibility, competence, character, and caring of the speaker.

Finally, I am thankful for the people to whom I proclaim God’s Word each week. You have encouraged me as I have worked on this paper and you encourage me as your pastor. We have laughed together, we have cried together, and we have grown together. Thank you for letting me be me.

In Christ,


Friday, May 14, 2010


Benjamin and I were talking the other day about his future. He was asking about the differences between public and private colleges, how long various professions need to go to school, and pros and cons of many different geographical regions of the United States. We didn’t really decide on too much. After the conversation ended, we began the more pressing work of memorizing his spelling words for the week and reviewing his multiplication tables.

A few weeks ago, at our Water’s Edge leadership meeting, we dreamed about the future. It was fun to look back at where we were three years ago and compare that to today. It was more exciting to look forward five years. It was the first time we had done this in a while, and just like Benjamin and I, the leadership team didn’t come up with a definite and clear vision, but we made some progress. I’ll continue to share about this in the weeks and months to come. After the vision conversation ended, we began talking about the basics of a church: kind of like spelling and math.
  1. Worship regularly. Worship is a spiritual meal that nourishes us. It shapes our lives about who we are and who God is.
  2. Pray. Pray for good decision making for our leadership team. Pray that The Water’s Edge will continue to provide people opportunities to connect with God and other people. Pray also as we seek to serve and love our city.
  3. Invite a guest to worship. We continue to grow each month. The single best way to share our faith is to bring them to a worship experience. With a 9:00 worship experience beginning on September 12th, we now have plenty of room to grow
  4. Join a small group. Although most of our small groups take a break in the summer, we are already planning for our small group launch in early September. We are seeking leaders. If you feel God leading you toward this ministry, email If you haven’t been in a small group before or have become disconnected, I encourage you to begin praying about trying a group out in September.
  5. Serve. It is my dream that everybody serves on a ministry team. We most look like Jesus when we serve. Serving is a great way for us to meet people. Serving also helps us to be part of a ministry that is changing peoples’ lives. We have over 250 people who serve at least once a month. To volunteer or learn more, simply sign-up on your registration card or register to serve at the connection’s table—we will be in touch with you.
  6. Share the joy! If you are currently in a small group or on a serving team—invite others to join you. God is blessing you and invites you to share the joy with others!

In Christ,


Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day

Here is my column for Sunday morning. Thanks to Frederick Buechner for his insight on being a parent.

Mother’s Day

The Bible tells us to honor our mother (Exodus 20:12). For some of us this task is simple and natural. For others it is difficult and contrived. Some mothers are nearly perfect. Others have made so many mistakes that only God can clean up the mess. Either way, God says, “Honor your mother.”

My mom, Bonita, is imperfectly perfect. For the last twenty-five years she has been a single parent. Despite her demanding job as an accountant and parenting my three older siblings, she loved me like I was the only one to love. I ran track and cross country in high school and college. She drove thousands of miles to see me run around a 400 meter track countless times. She was my biggest fan – celebrating the victories and encouraging me on the days I wished I was on the golf team instead of being a distance runner. She is not perfect, but as far as moms go, I am blessed. She enjoys and loves her many grandchildren. But she still loves me like I am the only one there is to love.

The role of being a parent is holy and sacred. Even if the parents are neither holy nor sacred, the role of parent is still sacred like the role of pastor is still sacred even if the pastor is a scoundrel. Being a parent is ordained by God, the creator and sustainer of life. Being a parent has responsibilities and rights. The responsibilities are many.

Entire books have been written on parenting: but praying, playing, listening, and modeling a Christian life are a good start. These responsibilities are for the parent of a six year old child and the parent of a sixty year old child. The rights are many as well: smelling the hair of a sleeping baby who has recently been bathed, laughing with the child exploring life, watching the child running races or dancing dances or singing songs, witnessing the child become who God wants the child to be, and having that child care for you when you are no longer able to care for yourself just like you once cared for the child when he or she was not able to take care of himself or herself.

Today is Mother’s Day. God’s command to honor your mother applies today as it does every day. Honoring them doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or worshipping them. It means seeing them for who they are and who they are not. It means loving God and our neighbor as faithfully and selflessly as mothers at their best have tried to love us. It means listening to them, praying for them, playing with them, and taking care of them to the end of their days on earth.

To mom, Amber, and all the mothers reading this—Happy Mother’s Day!

In Christ,


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Humor

None of this is original. Happy Mother's Day tomorrow to all the moms out there.

Top 10 Reasons You Know You Are A Young Mother
  1. You know all the words to the Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, and Dora the Explorer theme songs.
  2. You cut up your spouse’s food in little pieces.
  3. Your favorite piece of jewelry says "Mommy" on it and only cost $10.
  4. You have thousands of photos of your kids, but not a single one of yourself.
  5. Your feet stick to the kitchen floor … and you don’t care.
  6. The closest you get to gourmet cooking is making rice krispie bars.
  7. You stop criticizing the way your mother raised you.
  8. You've mastered the art of placing large quantities of pancakes and eggs on a plate without anything touching.
  9. You hope ketchup is a vegetable, since it's the only one your child eats.
  10. You say at least once a day, "I'm not cut out for this job", but you know you wouldn't trade it for anything.