Thursday, September 29, 2011

Control Issues

Last Sunday morning I had a headache. When I get them, usually a couple Advil takes the pain away. Last Sunday morning was an exception. I was having some investigative work done on my colon the next morning and wasn’t allowed to take Advil. So I drove downtown to pray with our runners who were doing the 10K, half-marathon, and marathon. Trying to find a parking spot, the headache got worse. When I got home the computer we use to project words and images on the screen during worship didn’t boot up. The headache got worse. In about 15 years of doing this, I don’t ever recall preaching with a headache. Now I can say I have. 

I’ll skip the details between noon on Sunday and nine o’clock on Monday morning. The headache was still present. I hadn’t eaten for thirty-six hours. For the first time in my life I was getting an IV. The nurse pushed my bed into the surgical room. I was going to be put to sleep for the first time in my life.

I’m not a control freak. Quite the opposite. I am probably a little too hands off as a church leader and I may give my kids too much freedom. Hopefully I’m somewhere in the middle between micromanaging and chaos. 

But on Monday morning I was dealing with some control issues. The anesthesiologist was very professional. He was even funny. I told him it was my first time going under. He replied I was his first patient, so we would be a good team. The surgeon was competent and compassionate. He noted I was the youngest patient he had seen in a while. By this time I was becoming sedated: I think I told him I didn’t know if that said more about me or him. Either that or I told him I was being chased by a giant, talking coconut. I remember them talking about my low resting pulse and being a funny guy for a pastor. Or maybe that was a dream. 

The next thing I remember is waking up with the IV out wondering why they hadn’t started yet. The nurse explained I was done. I replied “What do you mean, done? Am I going to die?” She responded, “Eventually you will, but most likely not in the near future. We are finished. Everything went well.” 

A while later, I left to go home. A queasy stomach. An empty stomach. A chauffeur. Having as much or as little control as I want. As I was dreaming about onion rings and key lime pie, it hit me, I realized I’m not really in control of much of anything except the thing that matters most. I don’t control things like the driver on the other side of the road, the stock market, or my kids when they are at school. But I can influence my relationship with God. It’s not much, but just as well, because in the present and in the end, it’s what matters. I’m not going to be a casual fan. I’m going to strive to be a fully committed follower. 

The best is yet to come… 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Honey Crisp Apples Cost More

Last night Benjamin asked me why Honey Crisp apples cost more than other apples. It's not everyday I get to use my degree in here it goes.

A comparison of Red Delicious (red) and Honey Crisp (green) apples
First, the Honey Crisp is a fairly new apple so there is a fairly limited supply. Growers simply can't plant new trees and get huge harvests in the few years. It will take years for supply of Honey Crisps to catch up to other varieties of apples.

Second, the Honey Crisp is probably the best tasting apple. Their sweet and mild flavor and firm texture make them a joy to eat. Honey Crisp apples have the highest demand of any apple. 

Intuition at this point tells us the Honey Crisp is going to cost more than other apples. The law of supply and demand graph confirms this intuition.

Two apples are compared on this chart. The Red Delicious are the red lines and the Honey Crisp are the green lines.


Note the supply of both varieties at $0. A grower will not harvest apples he or she has to give away. Note also the inelasticity of both supply curves: the price the buyer is willing to pay for the apples doesn't have a major effect on the quantity sold. The number of apple trees (and therefore apples) in a growing season is fixed. Just as it doesn't make sense to give the apples away, it doesn't make sense to let the apples rot. So regardless of price offered for the apples (assuming the price is above the cost of getting the apples to market), the quantity of apples supplied is not terribly dependent on price. Note as well the supply of Red Delicious apples is greater than the supply of Honey Crisp apples. A greater number of existing orchards and trees allow the growers to sell more units of Red Delicious apples at a lower price.


The demand of Honey Crisp apples is much greater than the demand for Red Delicious Apples. If given the choice, most apple eaters greatly prefer the taste of Honey Crisp apples to Red Delicious Apples. Look at two price points for each apple. At $2 the consumer is willing to purchase only 18 units of Red Delicious apples. The consumer is willing to purchase 60 units of Honey Crisp apples for $2. At $4 the consumer is willing to purchase only 10 units of Red Delicious apples. The consumer is willing to purchase 30 units of Honey Crisp apples for $4. So, the consumer wants Honey Crisp apples more than Red Delicious apples and is willing to pay the price. The demand for apples, especially Red Delicious, is pretty elastic. A change in price significantly effects the quantity demanded.


The price is determined by the intersection of supply and demand. A high supply and lower demand for Red Delicious apples means 2.4 units of apples will be sold at a price of $1.30. A low supply and higher demand for Honey Crisp apples means 4.8 units of Honey Crisp apples will be sold at a price of $2.80.


Price is determined by supply and demand. Honey Crisp apples will continue to cost more than other varieties of apples until more Honey Crisp apple trees can be planted and other varieties of apples are developed that rival the taste of Honey Crisp Apples.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What You Can Do

Dozens of times in the last few months, people have asked me how they can help with The Water’s Edge—especially as we have recently celebrated our 5th Birthday and as we launch into a new season of ministry and mission in Omaha and beyond. Here are some essential practices God wants from the people of His Church.

Hanging out at The Water's Edge at Platte River State Park

Invite. Nothing draws people to Jesus more than you. It takes courage for people to step into a journey towards Christ. It takes courage to walk through the doors of a church. And you can be the courage people need to step out! Honor the people in your life with an invitation to experience God at The Water’s Edge. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and classmates—share what you love about your church—and invite them to worship with you. 

Serve. We most look like Jesus when we serve. From teaching kids to greeting strangers to setting up chairs to dozens of other ministries – serving is part of God’s plan for our life. You will be a blessing and you will be blessed. Serving is a great way to get to know people as well. 

Speaking of getting to know people, join a small group or commit to the current small group you are in. We currently have about 20 small groups of all shapes and sizes. More will be starting in mid-October and in early January. You will have fun, make friends, learn from and with others, and experience and encounter God. 

Worship regularly. This is a primary way we connect with God. We are comforted and challenged. We experience the things of God: hope, grace, and forgiveness. The Scriptures are applied to our lives. 

Every day do something that invests in your spiritual life and helps you grow as a disciple. Every day participate in our Bible reading plan or read a devotional. Every day do something that serves or benefits someone else. Every day pray for the church. 

Give. The way we handle money is essential for our well-being and for the mission and ministry of the church. Giving frees us from the burden of greed and creates in us a spirit of generosity. Giving also allows us to trust that God can do more with most of our resources than we can do with all of our resources. To do the things God wants The Water’s Edge to do and to serve the people God wants us to serve, additional financial resources will be necessary. 

Live out the Gospel. No substitute exists for Christian character. God will be most powerful in your life and the lives of those around you when you do the things Jesus did, live like Jesus lived, and love like Jesus loved. 

That is how you can help. 

The best is yet to come… 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Franciscan Prayer

I'm reading through a book of Franciscan prayers each morning and invite you to join me in praying this prayer.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless every single one of you with anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people so that you may work for justice and freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain and rejection and starvation and war so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you, yes you, can make a difference in this world so that you can do for Christ what others claim cannot be done. May God bless you with a heart that breaks for the things that break his heart; may God bless you with a divine tenderness. May God give you an ear that hears his voice. May God increase the anointing upon your life, for you have been filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

And Make It Plain on Tablets

Vision is a proactive, preferred picture of the future. Simultaneously, a vision is not just a picture of what can be; it is an appeal to better ourselves and a call to become something more. Last week we celebrated our fifth birthday as a congregation. I talked about vision for the future of The Water’s Edge.

Then the LORD answered me and said:

Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it. –Habakkuk 2:2

A biblical vision for a church always includes people outside the church. Jesus told his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, and welcome the stranger. He challenged people to care for the widows and orphans. He spent a lot more time outside the Temple than he spent inside the Temple. His last words to the disciples were to go and make disciples. 

Jesus had other practices and beliefs. He believed in community. Not the polite kind where people are nice to each other. But the kind where people bear each other’s burdens, care for one another, dare each other to grow, and share life together. Jesus believed in recovery and wholeness. He believed in the power of prayer. He was a servant. He said children were as important as anything and everything else. And he wasn’t interested in fans: he never asked people to be enthusiastic admirers. He was only interested in people following him. 

Where there is no vision, the people perish. –Proverbs 29:18

As we become a new church independent from Faith-Westwood on January 1, 2012 – it is the appropriate and perfect time to discern and develop God’s vision for our future. 

I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. 
Your old men will dream dreams, 
and your young men will see visions. –Joel 2:28 

A team of people will pray, listen to God, study the teachings of Jesus, listen to our congregation, evaluate our strengths and areas for growth, listen to each other, dream, and create a vision for The Water’s Edge. I can’t imagine the vision won’t include things like small groups, recovery ministries, prayer, students and children, helping people’s dreams come true, serving hurting people all over the world, sharing our faith with people not in the church, a community-center-type building that will allow The Water’s Edge to love our community into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and a collection of eclectic people who are not fans of Jesus—but fully committed followers of Jesus. 

The best is yet to come… 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Faith, Hope, and Love Win

It was ten years ago. Some days it doesn’t seem that long ago. Some days it does. Like every other Tuesday, I took the day off from being a pastor and was driving the forty-five minute commute from Spencer, Iowa to Cherokee, Iowa to be a chaplain at the Northwest Iowa Mental Health Institute. I was changing the radio stations and stopped when I heard one of the radio announcers praying for the events that happened in New York. I turned to a new station and heard a commercial airplane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center.

I spent the rest of the day watching the news with a co-worker, a Catholic nun, and dozens of patients at the hospital. I saw things I thought I would never see in this country: giant buildings collapsing, air traffic being grounded, and a nation under attack. 

A nation lived in fear. Hearts were broken. Hope was temporarily suspended.

We did a worship service that night at Grace United Methodist Church. It originally started off as a prayer service in the chapel. Fifteen minutes before the service was supposed to start, the little chapel was overflowing with people so we moved worship to the Sanctuary. Hundreds of people from the community packed the Sanctuary. I read from the 23rd Psalm: 

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 

I left the church that night knowing more clearly and believing more passionately: people need God. 

It was five years ago. Some days it doesn’t seem that long ago. Some days it does. I walked into Russell Middle School knowing more clearly and believing more passionately that people need God. The launch of The Water’s Edge appropriately was experiencing rain. Not the normal polite Nebraska rain that gently falls from the sky. Buckets of water accompanied with gale force winds. The commons area at the school didn’t fill up fifteen minutes early. It never filled up at all. But the first page of the dream of dozens of committed people was written. Hundreds of pages have been written since that day. It has been a great five years. 

Faith is replacing fear. Hearts are being healed. Hope is alive and we believe tomorrow can be better than yesterday.

This morning, as we reflect on the events from ten years ago, we remember how fragile and how precious human life is. We pledge not to take life for granted and give thanks to God by fully living each day. So we also celebrate The Water’s Edge being five years old this morning. We started and we will continue living out and sharing the Gospel because we believe more than ever that people need God. 

Fear, despair, and hatred lose. Faith, hope, and love win. 

The best is yet to come… 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quotes from Getting Past Your Past

When you make a mistake you get another chance. Today is always a new day and plenty of opportunities exist for better relationships, personal achievement, joy, contentment, and growing closer to God. Failure is not stumbling or even falling down. Failure is staying down and refusing to embrace the new day. "This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." -Psalm 118:24

Revenge, anger, getting even -- they all seem like a good idea at the time. Until we realize the pain directed at the person who hurt us is like a boomerang: the animosity and hostility returns to us and smacks us on the head. Unless you like being bitter and resentful...try forgiveness. It's God gift to you.

What is true about you today doesn't have to be true about you tomorrow. "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" -2 Corinthians 5:17

Forgiveness: It's not as much for the offending party as it is for you. Maybe they will sleep a little better at night or be able to look in the mirror without quite as much guilt. Maybe they won't. You are spared carrying around burdens like resentment, anger, and bitterness. Forgiveness may not be fair, but it is good.

The past: We can’t change a darn thing about it. We can and should learn from it: the good, the bad, and ugly. And, somehow, we have to put it behind us. Doing things such as this sure beats the alternative. I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. –Philippians 3:13

Forgiveness doesn't change a darn thing about the past. It only changes the future. You get to choose your priority: yesterday or tomorrow. "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." -Ephesians 4:32

Saying sorry does't necessarily mean you are totally wrong and the other person is totally right. Both parties most likely share at least part of the blame. Apologizing is a starting point to reconciliation and simply means you value your relationship with that person more than you value your ego.

Forgiveness isn't overlooking an offense from another party. Overlooking the deed is either enabling a self-destructive behavior or being a doormat - neither of which are wise alternatives. Forgiveness simply rises above offenses and hurts.

Most failures in life happen because people didn't realize how close success was when they quit. Success generally happens only a step or two beyond what once looked like our greatest failure. Don't give up or quit. Continue and finish strong. "Problems develop endurance. Endurance develops character. Character strengthens hope. And hope will not lead to disappointment." -Romans 3:3-5

Sunday, September 4, 2011

About Ten Years Later

About ten years ago this girl in the church I was serving at the time asked me if I would do her wedding when she grows up. I told her I'd be honored to do it. She is a woman now and got engaged a while back. The four of us headed to Okoboji yesterday and today I kept the promise. It was a joy to perform her wedding.

Me, Samantha, and Shane

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Little Bit About Many Things

A Ten Year Old Promise (And Where I Am This Weekend) 

About ten years ago, a girl in the church I was serving in northwest Iowa asked me if I would do her wedding. I told her I would. She was young. Still had lots of school in front of her. She didn’t even have a boyfriend that I was aware of. A few months ago my phone rang. It was the girl who I haven’t talked to in about ten years. She is now a woman. I promised her I would do her wedding. This weekend I’m in Okoboji doing her wedding. I’m so grateful to all the volunteers who make things happen and we don’t miss a beat when I am gone. Thanks to Brad Krebs for doing this morning’s message. Brad is a middle school teacher at Russell Middle School and is a real blessing to us at The Water’s Edge.

Church Vote 

We had great participation at both campuses last week to approve the Church Council’s proposal for The Water’s Edge to become a separate United Methodist Church from Faith-Westwood. Support for this proposal was nearly unanimous at The Water’s Edge and was supported by a majority of members at Faith-Westwood as well. The Water’s Edge will become a United Methodist Church on January 1st, 2012. 

5th Birthday 

Next week will be one of our biggest weeks ever at The Water’s Edge. We will take time to remember the tragic events of ten years ago, September 11th, 2001. Events like this remind us of the importance of God in our lives. We will celebrate what God has done during our first five years and also look forward to what is going to be happening during the next five years. 

I’m Not a Fan of Jesus 

I’m not a fan of Jesus. A fan is a person who supports and cheers on others from the sideline. Jesus never asked us to be his fan. He asks us to be his followers. Completely committed followers. Starting next week, for six weeks, we will look at what it means to be a completely committed follower of Jesus. I look forward to taking this six-week journey with you. 

Small Groups 

We have about twenty small groups launching or relaunching next week. If there is one thing I want you to do this fall—it’s for you to try a small group for six weeks. Register by visiting the small group table on Sunday morning, going online, or by filling out the bulletin insert and placing it in the offering basket. 

Labor Day 

Enjoy the Labor Day Weekend. Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” –Matthew 11:28-29 

The best is yet to come…