Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Day Prayer

Dear God,

It’s a new day. It’s a new year.
It’s a day You have made. Make me a new creation.
Breath new life into me.
I want to be reborn again!


Scribbles exist on my chalkboard from last year. 
Hurts. Fears. Mistakes. Misunderstandings. Doubts.
Erase yesterday’s words.
Help me look at the clean slate and see possibilities.

May forgiveness be more real to me.
Accepting and experiencing Your forgiveness.
Offering and extending forgiveness to others.
Forgiving myself and giving myself grace.

Help me overcome my anxiety.
Increase my faith and give me courage.
Fill me with both humility and passion.
May I live at peace with You, others, and myself.

May my eyes see and enjoy the beauty of the world.
May my mouth speak constructive and encouraging words.
May my hands serve with compassion.
May my feet follow where You lead me.

Move my heart closer to Your heart. 
Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. 
Inspire me as we write this next chapter of my life together.
May these next set of words glorify You and bring life to me and others.

Amen.

#PrayersFromTheWatersEdge

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My One Word - 2016 Edition

The Hebrew word is דָּבָר or dabar. It appears 1,441 times in the Old Testament. In English it usually translates to word. But, many times it means to act.


To the original readers of the Hebrew Scriptures, saying something was doing something. To say the words: “I love you” or “I forgive you” or “I am not afraid” meant something more than audible words. The words just didn’t come from the mouth—but the mind and the heart. Great power existed in words. 

Today, words are as powerful as ever. In our words we simultaneously discover and create who we are. In our age of distraction and busyness and technology—nothing elicits emotion and provokes passion like words.

The Gospel of John starts with the phrase, “In the beginning was the Word.” It was an interesting word choice to describe God, but since God is the one who chose the word, we best pay attention. In the beginning was the speaker and the doer. God communicates to the hearers God creates. God never seems to get tired of speaking to us and acting on our behalf. 

John continues: “Then the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The one who communicated love and life. The one who seeked, saved, and served.

A new year is upon us. For many of us, January goes something like this: You choose a dysfunctional behavior that plagues you and you vow to fix things or at least improve a little. So we make a New Year’s resolution or resolutions. Most are typically done by February. We fail again.

This Sunday we look at choosing a word. One word. It is something we will speak and act upon daily. So instead of making a pledge to lose five pounds and getting really discouraged when we gain five pounds…we choose a word like “health” and explore what that word means throughout the year. We give ourself grace along the way and becoming healthier throughout the year.

Abide, better, courageous, discipline, emerge, forgive, grace, hope, invest, joy, kind, love, move, near, open, present, quit, real, serenity, tolerant, understand, victory, walk, x-ray, yes, and zone. If you are wondering how x-ray can be a word—what if this year somebody explored (x-rayed) what was inside them? Who they really are and why they exist. Their fears and their dreams. It would be a really cool word. So many possibilities because words are so powerful. I look forward to hearing yours.

Happy New Year,

Craig


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thoughts on Christmas

The automatic piano in the hospital lobby plays the old Christmas songs until their effect is like a child practicing a violin for the first time. Companies have Christmas parties that are like class reunions: people either really like them or really dislike them. People spend money they don’t have buying gifts people don’t need or even want. Fruitcake, lights hanging from roofs, Christmas movies, and Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town all make their annual appearance. But despite culture’s efforts, we haven’t quite ruined Christmas.


John is the most succinct of the biblical writers when it comes to his account about Christmas. He simply says the Word became flesh. Theologians call it incarnation. Luke gives a few more details. Mary gives birth. It wasn’t easy for her. She and Joseph couldn’t afford the Embassy Suites and the Motel 6 was booked, so they found a barn. The local pharmacy was out of epidurals and the midwife was on vacation for the holidays, so Mary and Joseph were on their own. The birth wasn’t as peaceful as most nativity sets indicate. The blood, the pain, the fears, and the tears—they were all present. They had to be. But out of Mary’s agony came a fragile baby and the world hasn’t been the same since.

A worn out Mary looked into the eyes of the baby. She didn’t notice if they were blue or green or brown. Instead she saw the Light of the World. The wiggly baby she held in her tired arms was the Resurrection and the Life. She fed from her breast the One who one day would defeat and destroy death. She experienced Christmas like nobody else ever has: God coming to be with us. 

It was dark outside that night. They couldn’t find a plug-in for the incubator, so Joseph built a fire to keep the baby warm. A warm flicker of light defeated the cold darkness of the world. It was a sign of things to come. 

The baby became a boy and the boy became a man. At the end of his life the tears, the fears, the pain, and the blood made their return and the world was about to change again. He rested in a wooden manger as a baby. Decades later he hung on a wooded cross as a man. His agony became our life. 

It’s a gift. In Latin it’s gratia. In Greek it’s charis. In English we simply call it grace. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. It is available to all of us no matter how good or how bad we are. Now and in the end, there is nothing quite like the promise of God’s presence: God is with us. That is what Christmas and life is all about. 

Join us to celebrate this sacred and holy moment. We will gather at 6:30 on Sunday night, December 20th, and at 3:30, 5:00, and 6:30 on Thursday afternoon and evening, December 24th. We also have Blue Christmas, a service of hope and healing, on Wednesday, December 23rd, at 6:30. I pray this Christmas we all experience God’s presence in our lives.

Merry Christmas, 

Craig

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beyond Perfection

A prayer for those dealing with perfectionism. #PrayersFromTheWatersEdge

A good enough bridge at Platte River State Park

Dear God,

I deal with perfectionism. 
I worry about rejection from others.
I dread failure and not meeting expectations.
So I strive for perfection to avoid discomfort and dismissal.

My need for perfection or the appearance of perfection has become a cruel companion.

My days are filled with stress.
My nights are filled with anxiety

Tasks have become more important than people.
My quest for the perfect life has become more important than my quest for You,
   my perfect God.

I’m am so busy polishing my life so that others think
     I am more than I actually am 
     and I have more than what I actually have.

Plenty of people I didn’t meet
Thousands of things I didn’t try.
Oodles of opportunities I missed.

Remove me from the treadmill of perfectionism.
When others reject me, speak to me Your words of acceptance.
When I fail, teach me important lessons and help me get up, grow, and keep 
   going.

May I set goals and strive for excellence in a healthy way.
     Not based on the perceptions and opinions of others
     but developing myself to chase my dreams and desires.
Move me from an ambitious life to a life based on calling.
Set me free from the chains of fear and bless me with more faith.
Fill me with peace about who I am and who I am becoming.

Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thanksgiving / Christmas Giving

Giving totals for The Water's Edge over the last 4 weeks:
  • 275 shoe boxes for kids all over the world with Operation Christmas Child. 
  • Thanksgiving dinners for 117 families in Omaha. 
  • Christmas gifts for 221 families with children in Millard with Project WEE Care. 
  • 851 pairs of socks and underwear. 
These gifts represent around $40,000 and hundreds of hours of serving.

Grateful for all the generous people who make WE Church what it is!


A load a socks and underwear taken to Together to be distributed to
people in Omaha.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

From the Ground Up

WE exceeded our goal of two million dollars and can now
move forward with our first building!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Violence and Christmas

It was late summer of 1986. I was getting ready to start my junior year of high school. The national news was dominated by one story: A disgruntled mail carrier, Partick Sherrill, walked into his post office the day after getting a poor performance review. He killed fourteen co-workers and wounded six others before killing himself.


The previous mass killing was in 1984. The next one that large would happen in 1991. They were rare. Stories like this dominated the headlines for weeks at a time. Our access to news was primarily from local network television stations, newspapers, and the radio.

How times have changed. News is delivered instantly via smart phones and social media. And there is a lot more news. The recent shooting in San Bernardino, California. The one before that at the community college is Oregon. The two this summer: at the military recruitment center in Tennessee and the church South Carolina. Even in our slice of the country, we have witnessed mass shootings in recent years at the Westroads Mall and Millard South High School. In our own city, four people have been killed in the last week.

Tensions exist between people who support gun control and people who support gun ownership rights. Tensions exist between Muslims and Christians.

Yeah, the world is different than when I was a high school junior. Things just aren’t quite the same any more.

But it’s Sunday morning. Christmas is twelve days away. I’m not going to talk about presents or cards or cookies or carols. I’ll talk about the only thing I’m trained to talk about. God.

Once upon a time, the people of Israel were looking for hope. Peace was a distant memory. Joy was tough to come by. Their messed up world made them wonder where God fit in all this mess. 

The people wanted a king. One who would restore justice. Maybe then they would have a chance at the hope, peace, joy, and faith of their fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

God did better than giving them a king. God gave them Himself. Christmas was the day that changed the world. Life has never been the same and neither has death.

Times are tough and these days are uncertain. You know that and so do I. We long for the hope, peace, joy, and faith of our grandparents and their grandparents. A new President probably won’t help too much. And new legislation won’t either.

But I have good news. God keeps giving us Himself. Hope isn’t a concept. Hope is a person and his name is Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace and his presence is greater than our struggles. He is the giver of joy in the good times and the bad. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He has come to seek us, serve us, and save us which is good because we need all three. 

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saturday

video

Benjamin and Grace went 8 - 0 this weekend and won the overall title.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Companion

I have a companion. I’ve known her since childhood. When I ran races in high school and college she made me run one more mile. As a student she made me proofread the essays one more time and listen to the tape of the class to make sure I didn’t miss anything important the first time around. As a pastor she makes me wonder if I am doing a good enough job or not.

A picture I took this summer. Edited, of course, to make the colors pop a little.

I’ll give her credit where it is due. Any excellence I have achieved, I most likely owe to her. I have some medals and trophies and diplomas and awards. She helped me attain every one of them.

She has also cost me a lot of stress over the years. The extra miles caused a dozen injuries. The pages cost me social interaction. Reading and writing are done alone. I think of the times the boys wanted me to play or talk and I was too busy or distracted doing the work of the church. For all her possibilities, in the grand scheme of things, she has been a pretty cruel companion. 

Her name: Perfectionism. 

When I was a kid, I heard a saying from many people I looked up to: “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” I wish I hadn’t listened. 

I think of the people I didn’t meet. The things I didn’t try. The opportunities I missed. The days filled with stress. The unnecessary nights of anxiety. Perfectionism fears rejection and failure. 

Although I still occasionally call on her, she is no longer welcome in my life because I finally figured something out: I’m not perfect. Perfectionism sent me on an incessant and endless chase of the unattainable. I jumped off that treadmill. I’m not recovered, but recovering. 

I still set goals, but they are more attainable these days. I’m more likely to say “no” to people than I was a decade ago. I see the value in failure and the lessons it teaches. I’m becoming fine with not being able to please everybody all the time. Rejection from people will happen; so does acceptance from God. I’ll most likely never take a casual approach to quality in my work, but I am learning to accept good enough. 

So Christmas is getting close. It’s a dangerous time for us perfectionists. The cards. The cookies. The family schedule. The parties. The presents. The lights. The traveling. Getting the house ready. Sometimes I wonder if the tasks become more important than the people. Or if the quest for the perfect Christmas becomes more important than a quest for the perfect Christ.

Cards that don’t get sent on time. A house that is a little messy. Cookies that are a little burned. A missed party. It happens. You are human. A human who is loved by a perfect God who gives Himself for you and to you daily.