Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting Some Rest This Labor Day Weekend

Oregon was the first state to recognize it in 1887. It became a federal holiday in 1894. Always the first Monday in September, Labor Day recognizes the contributions and achievements of American workers.

Labor Day Parade, New York City

It means something different today than it did one hundred and twenty years ago. Today most consider Labor Day weekend the end of summer, the start of football season, an opportunity to get a few things done around the house, or a long weekend. The aroma of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs is more prevalent on Labor Day than any other Monday of the year. Parks are filled with people. The kids enjoy a day off from school. 

The English word labor is from the Latin word laborare. It means manual or physical work. To toil, struggle, have difficulty. We can understand why a woman having a baby is called labor. We can also understand why coal miners and steel workers and railroad builders used to march in parades in early September. The industrialization and modernization of America happened because of their sweat. 

Jesus was aware of labor. Physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual labor. He knew life wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for the people he related to in the Middle East twenty centuries ago and life remains a challenge for people today. We are tired, stressed out, hurting, over-committed, under-resourced, facing difficulties, lonely, and struggling. Many of us are like this some of the time and some of us are like this much of the time. 

Jesus makes an invitation us: Come to me. All of you who labor and carry heavy burdens. If you are tired or burned out, come to me. And I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Balance and Harmony

The Greek word Jesus uses is ἀναπαύσω which is a little different than our word rest. Rest to us might be laying on a couch in front of a television or dreaming of being in a cabin in mountains or by a lake. Webster even describes rest as “freedom from labor.” Jesus didn’t see rest as inactivity, rather he uses ἀναπαύσω which implies balance, especially in life’s essential areas of imagination, physical wellness, mental wholeness, relational harmony, and spiritual solidarity with God. Jesus is not promising us life is going to be perfect, but he is promising us his presence and his participation in our lives. 

This Labor Day weekend, take Jesus up on his offer. Slow down a bit. Realize life isn’t about what we do, but who we are. Go to him. Pray. Give him some of your hurts and some of your burdens. Read a few chapters of one of the Gospels. Journey with Jesus and accept his gifts of balance, harmony, rest, and grace. 

Happy Labor Day, 


Friday, August 24, 2012

Strategic Matters

A few weeks ago, our youngest son, David, was leaving his class in the Frog Pond. He was one of 31 soon-to-be kindergarteners. I remembered back 5 years when our total population of children birth to fifth grade was less than 30 students. In a month or so, 35 third graders will be receiving their Bibles and starting a Bible mentor program with an adult. The Children’s Ministry Team has great things planned for the remainder of the year: The children will be doing the 40 Days in the Word Campaign alongside the adults. They will serve kids in Africa by participating in Operation Christmas Child. They will serve older students and adults at The Water’s Edge by preparing and performing a Christmas musical. I am so grateful for all of the volunteers who serve our children. You are investing in people important to God and people important to many of us. Parents: if you have questions – email She is on our staff to serve you.

I used to be a youth minister. It’s been over 12 years ago. Wednesday night my oldest son, Benjamin, will start youth group! The youth ministry is ready to launch. We have over 30 adult leaders, with about half of them being new, who will mentor and serve our middle and high school students. The youth will also join the adults and kids with the 40 Days in the Word study. If you have a middle and/or high school student and want more information on the weekly gatherings or summer mission trips send an email to

This fall WE will have over 25 adult small groups. Many of these are new and others are accepting new people. Small groups are a great way to create new friendships, strengthen existing relationships, connect to God, and apply biblical principles to our lives. Over 75 new people have signed-up for a small group in the last few weeks. All groups will launch the week of September 9th. I encourage you to register for a group on Sunday morning or email

Sunday, August 12th, was one of the great Sundays at The Water’s Edge. Over 350 of us served two nursing homes: The Lighthouse and Good Samaritan; three local ministries: Release Ministries, the Hope Center, and Together Omaha; two elementary schools: Rockwell and Willowdale; a 5K race: the Boxer 500; and at Millard West High School by assembling health and hygiene kits and welcome bags to teachers. We most look like Jesus when we serve. 

Construction on the Ministry Center is progressing well. A dedicated group of workers is making this possible. We are looking at moving in early October. You will also be hearing a lot from the Capital Campaign Team in the weeks and months to come as we seek to fund the Harrison Street property this fall. These are exciting times and I’m grateful to be on this journey with you. 

The best is yet to come… 


Friday, August 17, 2012

WE Serve - An Amazing Day

WE cancelled our worship services last weekend and worshipped God by serving and loving people in Omaha. Here is what happens when a bunch of ordinary people combine their resources with an extraordinary God!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reflections on the First Day of Kindergarten

I remember holding a chubby baby a few years ago. He had some fuzz on his head that reminded me of a peach. His eyes were blue like water in a lake. I would touch his soft forearm and softer cheek. Every once in a while I would kiss his little lips. His laughter and smile made me laugh and smile. I wondered what his voice would sound like when he began to talk. I wondered what his personality would be like when he matured.

This morning, Amber and I dropped the little boy off at Willowdale Elementary for the first time. He was ready to go. He wanted to start last year when his brother was in fifth grade. His spiked hair and blue eyes were full of optimism and excitement. I held his soft, little hand as we walked into the classroom. More for me and less for him. I was holding on for a few more moments. I kissed his lips before I said good-bye. He was fine with that but was also ready for Amber and me to leave so he could get this Kindergarten show on the road. As we walked from the classroom to the car I wondered what things would be like for him as he journeys through the passages of life. 

The Greeks have two words for time: xρόνος (khronos) and καιρός (kairos). The former has to do with calendars and clocks. We can’t do much about khronos. In 365 days we will be dropping David off at Willowdale for first grade. Kairos is different. It is a moment or a season when something special happens. Khronos has to do with quantity. Kairos has to do with quality. One we can’t do a darn thing about. The other is almost entirely up to us. 

I’ll get home late this afternoon or early this evening. That is the khronos. The sands passing through the hourglass. The tick of the clock. The turning of the calendar. It’s going to happen whether I like it or not. 

I’ll most likely be greeted by a five-year-old boy when I get home. His blue eyes will be filled with excitement. We’ll kiss one another and I’ll hold his hand. Hopefully he’ll laugh and smile and tell me about his first day of school. Hopefully I’ll be able to be his dad and nothing else. Not having a care in the world besides loving him. If David and I can pull if off – it’s kairos – the moment when something special happens. Otherwise it is just khronos – each individual sand passing through the hourglass.

John the Baptist was speaking in Mark 1:15 – “The time promised by God has come at last!” He didn’t use the word khronos. He used kairos

Sometimes I feel life is passing by too fast. When those feelings emerge, I remember God’s promise of kairos. I remember that life isn’t about the number of years we live, but the life that exists in those years. Take time today to create those special moments that will never happen again. Enjoy God’s sacred and blessed gift of kairos

The best is yet to come… 


Thursday, August 9, 2012

WE Serve - Leaving the Building

This Sunday, August 12th will be one of the great days in the history of The Water’s Edge. It may be the greatest so far! We will not be having our regular worship services at 9:00 and 10:30 at Millard West High School. Instead, we will gather at Millard West at 9:00 for a short blessing and then worship God by serving and loving our community. (Note: a few teams will need to go directly to their sites.) So far, over 330 people are registered to serve on Sunday morning. If you haven’t signed up yet, please take a few moments and register now!

7:30 to 10:00 - Boxer 500 Colon Cancer Run – 62 Volunteers so far
Team Leader: Kristi Hicks
Water bottle handout, clean-up, and other duties. 

8:00 to 9:00 – T-Shirt distribution, answers to questions, late registration, and snacks at Millard West High School 

8:30 to 2:00 - Release Ministry Homes – 25 Volunteers so far
Team Leaders: Rick and Margie Schmid 
Landscaping, painting, removing wallpaper, and power washing 
Directions are provided in a separate email 

9:00 – Blessing and send-off at Millard West. We will do this outside, weather permitting. 

9:15 – Serve / Depart for project sites 

Millard West High School – 104 volunteers so far 

Assemble UMCOR Health Kits 
Label Water Bottles for future outreaches 
Assemble Hygiene Kits 
Assemble Back-to-School Packages for Millard West Teachers 

Willowdale Elementary School - 30 volunteers so far

Team Leader Chris Seim
Weed, mulch exterior, pick-up trash, paint mural
Bring garden tools and work gloves 

Rockwell Elementary School – 10 volunteers so far

Team Leader: Heather Hutchinson
Weed, pick-up trash, light landscaping
Bring garden tools and work gloves 

Together Omaha – 15 volunteers so far

Team Leader: Chad Schuchmann
Sorting donations and tearing-down a wall
Bring work gloves 

Lighthouse Assisted Living – 25 volunteers so far

Team Leader: Diane Peck
Activities and resident visitation

Good Samaritan Nursing Home – 25 volunteers so far 

Team Leader: Craig Finnestad 
Lead a worship service, read books to residents, and other resident activities and visitation. 

Hope Center – 32 volunteers so far 

Team Leader: Jeff and Brenna Neuhaus
Painting and cleaning
Bring paint rags 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: Can kids participate?
A: Absolutely! The projects at the three schools and two nursing homes are perfect for kids! Release Ministries would not be the best for elementary students or younger. 

Q: Do I have to pre-register? 
A: No. However, online registration is simple and will help us better plan the day. 

Q. Can I register Sunday morning? 
A: Yes. However, online registration is simple and will help us better plan the day. 

Q: I don’t have a t-shirt yet. How do I get one? 
A: Werner Park volunteers will pick up their shirt Sunday morning at Werner Park. Release volunteers will be provided a shirt by their team leader. All other volunteers will get their shirt on Sunday morning on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Q: Do I need to come to the blessing? 
A: Werner Park and Release Volunteers will already be serving during the blessing. All others are encouraged to attend the blessing at Millard West and then travel to the project locations. Come a little early for fellowship and food.

Q: Can I invite friends to serve with me who aren’t part of The Water’s Edge?
A: Yes. Please do! 

More questions? Email

WE are so grateful for the overwhelming response to WE Serve. You will be a blessing to the community and be blessed by God for serving others. Be in prayer over the next few days for this incredible day of love, worship, and service. 

See you Sunday morning!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reflections on a Week a Camp

This week I was the leader of a camp for kids. Fourth through six graders. Half were boys and half were girls. Bunk beds, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a few home sick kids, swimming, dirty clothes, bug bites, campfires, and s’mores. You know the drill.

Most camps aren’t thriving in today’s culture. Too much competition for that. Camping seems almost an oddity in our world of comfort and conveniences. We spend most of the day outside. No electronics or cell phones are allowed. Us adults aren’t even supposed to use them unless we have an emergency, like writing a column for the weekend’s bulletin. But after a day of adjusting to our new lifestyle, most of us do just fine. 

The best part of the camp is the kids. Most are from rural Nebraska. They still see the world with a wide-eyed optimism. Some are social. Some are socially awkward. Some are mature eleven year olds. Some are naïve eight year olds. All are trying to find their place in the world. 

My favorite time is sharing the Gospel with them around the campfire at night. Campfires seem a little out of place when it’s been 100 degrees all day and the air temperature still hovers in the mid 90s, but the Gospel is never out of place. I don’t talk about too much: God’s love, faith, forgiveness, grace, salvation, and their potential are the only things they get to hear which is just as well because if they ever manage to figure out even half these things they just might find their place in the world. 

The boy with autism. The girl who never wanted to be there but did her best the whole time. The boys who always raced to the front of the line when it was time to eat. The four Sudanese girls. The baseball player with the tough exterior and the soft heart. The over-worked and under-paid counselors. God created all of them and even brought all of them together for five days in the drought-stricken prairie. As I was praying to close worship last night, God gave me a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Some of the girls were trying to guess how old I was yesterday. I got everything from 25 to 37. Flattery. Then one of the boys said his mom and dad were both 42. A girl replied, “That is so old.” Reality. 

Reality will come tomorrow afternoon and I’m good with that. I have a wife and two kids I miss. I’ll be a week behind on my work at the church and look forward to catching up. I’ll finally get to watch some of the Olympics. 

But the lesson from the week is as profound as it is clear: great and beautiful things happen when a diverse group of people gather to intentionally seek God and live as disciples. I look forward to doing this with you during the next seasons and years of our life. 

The best is yet to come…