Friday, February 27, 2015


I have been talking about suffering for a few weeks and have a few more to go. Suffering isn’t one of those topics that is going to get most people excited about coming to worship. Unless you are suffering.

But, pain in life is inevitable. Suffering is unavoidable. Everybody hurts sometimes. If you aren’t experiencing pain or suffering—just wait. We have all experienced pain. Some of us are going through a hard time right now. And, we will all suffer. I’ve been a pastor / chaplain for two decades now. I haven’t seen it all, but I have seen enough.
o I once held a man whose wife took a bunch of pills and ended her life.

o I’ve sat for hours and listened to men and women living in an institution with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I know they have a parent or a sibling or somebody somewhere who is suffering because somebody they love is suffering.

o I remember praying with a man that love and life would back into his marriage.

o I’ve listened to a single parent talk with great pain about how she is overwhelmed and alone.

o I done hundreds of funerals: dozens tragic and unexpected.

And I’m just sharing with you the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t seen it all, but I have seen enough. A mentor told me a long time ago I would get used to things like this. I’m still waiting. Pain in life is inevitable. Suffering is unavoidable. Everybody hurts sometimes. 

Your pain is probably not found on the above list. Maybe is it guilt toward yourself, resentment to others, or fears about tomorrow. Maybe it is being alone while surrounded by loved ones, trying to meet the unattainable standard of perfection, or distance from someone you once felt so close to. Or it could be one of a million other things.

Jesus knew what it was like to suffer. He experienced enough pain in his thirty-three years for a few lifetimes. Emotionally, his best friend Peter denied him three times. Once was more than enough. Physically, he experienced a beating that was beyond cruel and unusual. Spiritually, at the end of his life he even found himself distant from God and asked God why God had abandoned him. He is not the first of the last person to ask that question.

I pray for our congregation and community every day. I pray for times of blessing and abundance and prosperity. It is so cool to see people living with joy and fruitfulness. I also pray for those in pain. The small types of pain that will wear us down over time and the big types of pain that overwhelm us. I pray for healing, hope, and His presence.

I know something else about pain and suffering. These siblings will do something in us that good times never will: Lead us to a dependence and faith to our Heavenly Parent who created us, loves us, is present with us, heals us, and saves us. 

We are on a journey that began with sackcloth and ashes. The Good News is that it ends with resurrection.

The best is yet to come…


Monday, February 23, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Prayer for Lent

Dear God,

It is Lent. A season of renewal. 
Days of reflection. 
Nights of replenishment. 
Weeks of repairing and refocusing.
Ending in a day of resurrection and rebirth.

Grant me discipline.
Discipline to be faithful. 
Discipline to hunger for Your Word.
Discipline to thirst for conversation and quiet time with You.
Discipline to love what You love and to love like You love.
Teach me again that discipline yields a rich harvest of grace and peace.
Remove any obstacles between us and move me closer to You. 

Bless me with repentance.
To turn away from anything that distances me from You.
To turn from lust to love.
To turn from fear to freedom.
To turn from jealousy to justice.
To turn from selfishness to service.
To turn from haughtiness to humility.
To turn from gluttony and greed to goodness and grace.
To turn from doubting and depression to depending fully on You.
To turn from worshipping counterfeit gods to worshipping You.
Help me repent of my sins and turn to You, so that my sins are wiped away.

Remind me of my mortality.
I was created from dust and to dust I shall return.
My time in the world You have created is limited.
Help me make the most of it.
Let Your dreams for me by my dreams for me.
Make my purposes clear. Give me a passion for my purposes. 
And let me know that this world is not my permanent home.
Your Kingdom and Your heart is my true and eternal dwelling place.

You are faithful to me. 
Recreate me in Your image so I am faithful to You and others.
Do something in me during this season.
Do something small and do something big.
And as You do something in me; do something through me.
Bless me and a make me a blessing to others and to the world.
Let me experience the resurrection of Christ.
Resurrect me. Give me a rebirth. Raise me to new levels of life.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Practical Suggestions for Lent

Today begins the season of Lent. It is a six-week journey leading to the cross and eventually the empty tomb. It’s a path we must take to fully embrace the destination. 

Darkness comes before light. 
Brokenness before healing. 
Despair before hope. 
The recognition of sin before the experience of grace. 
Death before new life. 

I encourage you to make Lent meaningful this year because the more meaningful Lent is—the more meaningful Easter, and life, will be. 

Let the season of Lent be a bridge between you and God.

Practical Suggestions for Lent

Questions for Reflection

1. What is a habit in my life getting in the way of me fully loving God and others? Or being loved by God and others? What are some steps I can take to address this habit? How am I going to respond when change becomes difficult

2. What is something I am attached to but don’t need? Is God leading me to give up this attachment for Lent? If so, how would surrendering this area of my life prepare me for the new life of Easter?

3. When I wake up on Easter morning, what do I hope will be different about me? When I wake up on Easter morning, what does God hope will be different about me?

Personal Activities

1. Observe a Sabbath for six consecutive weeks. Many people find sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday an excellent time. Spend time resting, reflecting, practicing recreation, restoring, and replenishing. After each Sabbath, think about what God was doing in you during the Sabbath.

2. Read the Gospel of Luke. Go slow. You only need to read about half a chapter per day. At the end of each reading—ask the question: How does God want me to apply one lesson I learned to my life today and in the future?

3. Fast from using a credit card or debit card and become aware of how you are spending money. Reflect on what it means to be a good and faithful steward of God’s resources.

4. Spend time outside every day. Mix it up by walking, taking pictures, sitting, thinking, playing, and praying. As the weather gets nicer and the ground changes, consider God’s hope, new life, and resurrection in your life.

5. Write forty notes of gratitude or encouragement to family, friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, or people from your past (both people who are alive and deceased). Think about how God is working through this process.

For Families with Children

1. During meals or before bed, share together how each of you experienced God during the day. Pray together for a deeper experience of God’s grace in your life.

2. Have the entire family commit to encouraging and serving each other one time per day. Occasionally reflect on how you are experiencing God’s grace through each other.

3. Go old school and turn off all electronic devices one evening per week from after-school until the next morning. You will survive and the world will be fine too. Talk about this experience the next day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fat Tuesday

Finnestad boys Fat Tuesday dinner: French toast. Hawaiian bread dipped in eggs,
cinnamon sugar, and vanilla, fried in butter, and covered in maple syrup.

Finnestad boys Fat Tuesday dessert: European after-dinner pizza.
A homemade thin pizza crust,topped with melted butter, covered with
a generous base of Biscoff crunchy spread, topped with fresh bananas
 and Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. Baked for ten minutes at 400 degrees.
Drizzled with a little fresh Nebraska honey and served with
Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream. Ready for some fasting tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2015

WE Minute: Ash Wednesday and Lent

Join us for Ash Wednesday worship at Tiburon at 6:30 on Wednesday evening.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The original Latin word for what we today know as Lent is Quadragesima which means “forty days before Easter.” The purpose was to prepare the disciple for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. The forty days is symbolic of the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert as he prepared for public ministry.

The original practices of Lent were prayer (discovery of God), fasting (discovery of self), and service (discovery of neighbor). Lent is about a tenth of the days of a year to discover who God is, who we are, and what the world is. We ask in one way or another what it means to be ourselves.

About one thousand years ago Quadragesima was changed to the secular word “spring.” The Germans know this as lenz and the Dutch know it as lente. Both words mean “lengthen” because in the northern climate the days of spring become longer and longer. We now call it Lent.

As Quadragesima became Lent, the practices changed as well. The true meaning of Lent is now hidden in the hustle of fish frys and the Easter Bunny. Today we give up chocolate or alcohol or Facebook or eating most meat on Fridays. None of these things is necessarily bad, but do they really help us discover who God is, who we are, and what the world is?

If you were bet everything you have on whether God exists or not, which side would you choose and why?

When you look in the mirror, what is it you like the most and what is it you want to change the most?

Consider your history: What are two moments you wish you could do over? One because it was painful for you or somebody you love and you want a do-over. The other because you simply want to relive the happiness of the moment.

If you had forty days to live, what would you do with them?

If you had forty years to live, what would you do with them?

Does a person or a cause exist that you would be willing to die for?

If you could write a message in a couple dozen words to a handful of people, what would you say and who would you say it to?

Responding to questions like this gives us a glimpse of who we are becoming and just as importantly who we are not becoming. It’s tough work and can be challenging. It’s also worth it. 

Lent begins with the imposition of ashes and ends with the resurrection of the dead—which is what life is all about. 

Read through the Gospel of Matthew. Ask yourself some of the above questions. Pray. Serve somebody you love. Pray some more. Serve a stranger. Worship weekly. Deprive yourself of something you really desire, but don’t need. Give. Share. Rest. Grow closer to God. Discover yourself. That’s Quadragesima.

The best is yet to come…


See Frederick's Buechner's thoughts on Lent from Whistling in the Dark
Also C.S. Lewis and Henri J.M. Nouwen's: A Wonderous Love

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Comedy Sunday

This is Comedy Sunday. The Greek word kōmōidía originally meant a stage play with a happy ending as opposed to tragōidia which evokes suffering and ends poorly. History’s great comedy is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early Orthodox Church, the day after Easter, the people gathered to play jokes on each other and share funny stories to celebrate the joke that God played on Satan. Satan thought he had finally conquered the world, but the King still had another move: on the third day, the tomb was empty and Christ had risen. It was God’s final move putting Satan into checkmate once and for all.

Humor isn't the opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair. Here are some thoughts about humor in the Bible.

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.

God gave laughter to Sarah. Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me” (Gen. 21:5, NLT). 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” (Gen. 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” (Exod. 3:6). The Hebrew reader understands that Laughter (Isaac) is the father of Israel (Jacob).

Looking forward to sharing this Sunday with you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Four Thousand Words

This is what happens when you lose a bet to somebody from Seattle!

Benjamin and the paella he made for the Super Bowl

Last night's snow

Beautiful to look at anyway!