Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Pastor's Appreciation

Last Sunday, after the 10:30 worship experience, a few third graders gave me a basket. The basket contained some of my favorite things: York Peppermint Patties, Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, and a bag of jalapeño potato chips. A few days later, the basket is empty. I fought the boys for the chocolate and our dog for the chips. Strange, but true.

Also included in the basket were a bunch of cards created and written by our third graders. They were whimsical, thoughtful, and kind. It took a while, but I read though every single one of them. I laughed, smiled, and maybe even cried a little. I always appreciate and am grateful for any cards or gifts during Pastor Appreciation Month—but this one stands out. Lots of people put a lot of effort into it. Thanks to the leaders of the Third Grade Bible Mentoring Program, the mentors, and all the students.

The month is a little awkward for me. I have always considered myself blessed to be a pastor and I appreciate people. Never has this been more true than my time at The Water’s Edge. A church may exist with better, more loving, more generous, funner, and more committed people—I just haven’t come across it and don’t expect I ever will.

I’m grateful to be invited to be part of your lives. You invite me to your hospital room to bless your babies. You invite me to your house for graduations. You let me stand two feet in front of you and perform your weddings. You trust me with your story and invite me to share mine.

I’m grateful you love my family like they are your own. You know I am a dad and don’t expect me do everything all the time. You let me know it’s a good thing to coach soccer and pick the kids up from school. You don’t expect my wife to be a full-time volunteer staff person, but just want her to be who God created her to be. 

I’m grateful you all pay my salary and are generous with that. I know many who sacrifice to see The Water’s Edge prevail. I thank God daily for you providing for my family.

I’m grateful you love our church. I don’t have to spend much time resolving conflict because you all love each other. I don’t ever have to beg for volunteers because you step up. I rarely have to say “no” to a good idea or a God idea because you embrace stewardship.

I’m grateful for your grace. You don’t expect perfection. But you love me enough to expect growth. You have people present and systems in place to make this possible for me.

I’m grateful you are my family. Children of God. Brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ. Men, women, and children who gather at The Water’s Edge to hear the teachings of Jesus. People who go into our various worlds to live out those sacred, life-changing, life-giving, challenging, comforting, holy teachings.

I appreciate you.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Esther and Jalapeño Chips

Probably the only dog on the world who likes jalapeño potato chips.

Picking up David after school.
We were happy to see each other.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Be Rich: The Good News and Bad News About Being Rich

A little long-winded this week. Sorry about that!

Check out the book How to Be Rich by Andy Stanley. Excellent resource. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Typical Saturday

Benjamin being a good sport about traveling with the Spikeball kit

My plus-one for tonight's wedding. The usual suspect was watching David play basketball.

My security detail for tonight's wedding.
Not much else needs to or can be said.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lessons from Winning

I could write an entire book on losing as a soccer coach. Maybe even a collection of books. The OFC Arsenal has suffered some serious beat downs under my leadership over the years. The last few seasons we improved, but generally lost more than we won. This fall, the boys were the best team in the league and won the Fall Cup. Losing teaches lessons winning doesn’t teach, but winning teaches important life lessons as well.

1. Practice Makes Perfect, Or At Least A Whole Lot Better

We practiced more than ever this season. Probably at least twice as much. Fifteen trainings before our first game. Two or three practices per week once the games started. We got better. It was amazing to their transformation physically and as a soccer team from the first practice to their last game.

Application: Getting better at something requires hard, focused, intentional work. No shortcuts. This applies to relationships, athletics, academics, work, and growing closer to God.

2. Get Past Your Past

We played many of the same teams we played the last few years. Teams who out-played us, out-coached us, and out-hustled us. The boys (and the coach) believed they could do what they weren’t able to do in previous seasons.

Application: Thankfully our past doesn’t have to be our future. Our past can defeat us, define us, or develop us. Everyday—ordinary people do an extraordinary thing—they do something they weren’t able to do yesterday. Let your past develop you.

3. Play Your Game

We are not a pretty team. The long, graceful passes or the quick ball movement isn’t something we have mastered yet. Their coach doesn’t have a British accent, rather he is a pastor who learned about soccer from watching YouTube videos. But, the boys are strong and physical. Their defense is relentless. I coach them to play physical, but fair. They always wear the other team out. 

Application: If you are trying to grow as a disciple, but have Attention Deficit Disorder, long prayers are not where you should invest your time. If you love science, take a bunch of science electives. If you love to sell and meet people, find a job selling a product or a service. Live in your sweet spot. Not somebody else’s.

4. One Team is Better Than Eleven Individuals

A team is simply a collection of people who can become more together than they could separately. The boys embraced that this season. They communicated well, pushed one other in practice, played to the strengths of their teammates, and believed in each other.

Application: Find people who make you better. Ask for help and support. And invest in a few others.

5. Winning Isn’t Everything

Winning is objective—namely who has more points at the end of the game. Growth is subjective. Winning is about comparison to others. Growth is comparison to who we used to be. Hopefully over the years, the boys have learned to place more value in growth than winning.

Application: Don’t compare yourself to who you perceive somebody else is today. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Spend your life growing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WE Minute: How to Be Rich

This Sunday we start a new series on how to be rich. Really rich. Here is a preview.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Week in Pictures

During a run a Platte River State Park

The boys at the Pumpkin Patch

Benjamin teeing off on Red #3

He is taller and more handsome. I'm still a better golfer.

A perk of doing a wedding for a Lithuanian: Lithuanian desserts

View from the back yard

Monday, October 20, 2014

BIG GOD. little me.

I talked about how when we are small God becomes bigger. And, even though, we are small, we are not insignificant.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Make Me Small

It happens every once in a while. I wish it happened more. 

I remember the first time I saw the ocean. It was in San Diego. I was seven years old. I stood at the water’s edge and felt small next to the powerful Pacific. 

I remember the day my mom dropped me off for college. As an introverted, eighteen-year-old boy from a small town I felt even smaller as mom’s blue Chevrolet Impala station wagon pulled away.

A few years later I was sitting on Preikestolen. It’s the most beautiful place I have ever seen. In Norwegian it translates to Preacher’s Pulpit. It is a small flat surface on top of a cliff that drops 2,000 feet drop to the water below. I felt small as I looked at all the fjords and mountains and water.

Thirteen years ago I don’t ever recall feeling as small as when I held a little baby boy. I’ve held babies before and I have held many since. But this one was different. He was mine. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t. 

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. –John 3:30

Life changes when we realize who God is and experience who God is. And we can only understand and face who we are when we begin to realize and experience who God is. 

God is the Creator of the world. God is the Father who loves and accepts us unconditionally. God is the Son who instructs and inspires. He seeks and serves and saves. God is the Holy Spirit who is with us. In the good times and the not-so-good times. God is the giver of things like joy, grace, hope, and peace.

Dependence on God is the only independence. –Soren Kierkegaard

Freedom and independence doesn’t come from various sorts of security or youth or health. All can vanish faster than the sun melts away the morning fog. Freedom comes from God and from God alone. Freedom to live and ultimately freedom to die. 

I’ve felt too big too many times. Times when it was more about me than God. Times when I wanted to win more than I wanted to grow. Times I sought to be right rather than to understand. 

But God keeps speaking. Natural wonders, challenges, babies, and however else God wants to speak. I’m grateful for every time I have been knocked down because I am always reminded of the One who picked and picks me up. My prayer today is as simple as simple gets:

Lord, make me feel small so I can experience Your greatness. Amen.

The best is yet to come…


Freedom in Life

Friday, October 10, 2014

Week in Pictures

198th Street. The western boundary to our church property. 

This is what happens when you fall asleep immediately after taking a bath.

Testing the red delicious apples.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Prayer for Purpose

Dear God,

I come to You as tired.
I am unfocused and out of balance.
Sometimes life just feels like it is just a little too much.

Give me rest. Rest for my body and rest for my soul.
Center me. Bless me with harmony and order.
On the difficult days—fill me with Your Holy Spirit.

I come to You as bored.
I am lacking fulfillment and purpose.
Sometimes I just want more out of life.

Give me passion for You and passion for people.
Break my heart for the things that break Your heart.
In times of apathy—fill me with Your Holy Spirit.

I come to You as trapped.
I am attached to lesser things and habits.
Sometimes I just long to be free.

Give me independence from attachments and dependence on You.
Prune things that are getting in the way of my relationship with You.
During times of imprisonment—fill me with Your Holy Spirit.

I pray for Sabbath.

Times and places to rest and reflect and renew.
Times and places to listen to Your voice.
Times and places to focus and center.

I pray for Purpose.

A life filled with joy and contentment.
A life instructed and inspired by You.
A life that serves You and Your children.

I pray for Freedom.

A life not hindered by addictions or compulsions.
A life with nothing between me and You.
A life of opportunity made possible because of Your grace.


Monday, October 6, 2014

This Week's Message: Acceptance

A message for those struggling with acceptance: Acceptance from God, others, and self.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I pick up my youngest son, David, up from Willowdale Elementary School most days. He is in second grade. The little children have acceptance figured out. They don’t care what neighborhood anybody comes from or the color of a person’s skin. They don’t have a political party yet and disregard each other’s social standing. The world hasn’t taught them things like pride and prejudice yet.

Life changes.

I pick my other son up most days too. Benjamin is a middle school student. An eighth grader to be specific. I patiently wait on 172nd Street in my black car. I usually read a book or check some email. I know many of the kids. They are from church, from soccer, from Cub Scouts, from elementary school, from where ever. Some wave and say “hello”. Some don’t. Some of them walk in a large group and are accepted. Others wait or walk alone. 

Life changes even more. 

Acceptance doesn’t always get better. It gets worse. The woman looks out her window and sees all the neighbors gathering. She didn’t get the memo. She never does. Her husband doesn’t accept her either. He thinks she is too big. The neighbor in the back doesn’t feel accepted either because of his sexual orientation. The person at work isn’t as productive as the boss wants. The college student is too religious. The couple is too old. The man is an alcoholic.

You see, we are pretty good at slapping labels on people. Some are positive and affirming: strong, courageous, gracious, hard-working, wise, loving, compassionate, etc… Others are neither positive nor affirming. Lazy, failure, fat, funny-looking, mean, stupid, weak, loser, failure, not-good-enough, etc

Once you label me, you negate me. –Søren Kierkegaard

Being labeled is no fun. Positive labels put us in a box and negative labels can really sting. Not being accepted just plain hurts. Some of us visit Unaccepted Avenue from time to time. Others of us live there. It’s a lonely street that doubles as a dead end.

But whether you live on Prosperous Parkway or Unaccepted Avenue, God has a label for you: Accepted. Yep, you. It doesn’t matter if you are standing by yourself waiting for your dad to pick you pick after school or looking out your window wishing you were invited to the party. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how big of a failure you are. God accepts you. Labels negate.

The world is full of critics. Some will label you. Some won’t accept you. Their criticism probably has more to do with them than it does with you. God accepts you where you are and as you are and loves you so much that He will not leave you where you are.

The best is yet to come…