Sunday, May 1, 2016

New Web Site

We launched a new web site today. 

We will keep this one live indefinitely, but all the new content will be added at www.craigfinnestad.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Confirmation Sunday

I remember the day. Eight of us lined up in the front of the old church. The boys wore ties. The girls wore dresses. We all wore white robes. Our grandparents were so proud. Our parents took pictures with their Kodaks and Polaroids. The preacher tried to tell a few jokes and stumbled through our Scandinavian names the best he could.


And then it happened: The preacher laid his hands on my head and said: Craig, may the Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen.

I’ll say words similar to these this morning—thirty-one times. It doesn’t matter if the person saying this blessing is a saint or a scoundrel—it only has to do with God and the one being prayed for. And what a blessing it is.

I don’t remember much about that day. We had sandwiches and salads for lunch. Those eclectic fruity Jell-O salads with shredded carrots and chopped celery covered with a bizarre blend of cream cheese and Cool-Whip. I didn’t attend church or participate in ministry much the next few years. I remember going four years later on graduation Sunday. Standing up front with the exact same friends and a different preacher stumbling through our last names.

The next time all of us gathered in the church was about twenty years later. I stood in front of the crowded church wearing a black robe and a stole around my neck. One of my friends laid peacefully ten feet in front of me. He died too young. Two of the others sang some of the most heartfelt and compassionate music I remember hearing. At the end of the worship service, I went and laid my hand on the casket and said a different blessing: May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. What distance and interests and time separates, God joins back together. Nothing quite like the church. At its best, it connects us to God who gives us abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come.

Today is a great day at The Water’s Edge: We welcome our fifth Confirmation Class. These thirty-one students have learned, worshipped, and served together. They have been equipped with the tools necessary to help them thrive as a disciple of Jesus. Confirmation Sunday isn’t the end of a journey. It is the beginning. We have great big dreams for a student ministry that deeply impacts the lives of our students and students in our community. 

To the Confirmands: you are not only the future leaders of our church. Your ministry has already started: sharing the grace of Christ with people in your life and in God’s world. I pray your high school years are some of the best of your life and I pray you continue to grow in your love of God, your love of people, and your service to the world.

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'm a Failure

I’m a failure. I have failed more than succeeded at life.

My dream in high school and college was to run a sub four-minute mile. I’m guessing I raced the mile or its metric equivalent over one hundred times. I never really got that close.

I ran for student body president my junior year at Drake University. I had a great vision and a savvy campaign manager. Many political careers have died in Iowa. Mine was one of them.


As a young adult, I invested most of my life savings in a company called Web Van. They went bankrupt two years later and it didn’t help my bottom line too much either.

I inherited a decent soccer team that my oldest son played on. We trained hard in the offseason. My assistant coach and I developed a great game plan. My first game as a soccer coach, I lost 9 to 0. And it wasn’t actually that close. I remember telling the boys after our loss that failure teaches us lessons success doesn’t. I don’t think any of them got it at the time. I believed it. Still do.

I have learned that a single failure doesn’t mean failure has the last word. Someone once said: “Failure should be our teacher and not our undertaker.” Failure is best thought of as a delay and not a dead end. 

If success is the destination, the path to success goes through the land of failure. My observation is that people who don’t experience some failure never experience much success. Success isn’t the absence or the opposite of failure. It is overcoming failure.

I’m in the company of some good people. Peter is one of them. He got into an argument with his buddies about who was the greatest. He wasn’t too keen on Jesus washing his feet. He pulled out a sword and chopped off a man’s ear. He fell asleep when Jesus was in agony. He took his eyes of Jesus and sunk in the water. He denied Jesus three times. Yeah, Peter was a failure. 

But when God was ready to start the church He summoned Peter. I’m guessing if somebody was going to be talking about grace, God wanted somebody who has experienced it. And after Peter’s first sermon the world has never been the same again.

If you are stuck, try something new and know failure isn’t a bad thing. If you are failing, learn your lessons, get up, and try again. If you are in a season of success, take a look back and be grateful you have overcome failure.

The best is yet to come…

Craig



Friday, April 1, 2016

Blues, BBQ, and Love Does

Blues music started in the Deep South at the end of the 1800s. It combined African music with European folk music. The lyrics were often melancholy and sad. 

Downhearted lyrics are not an American invention. Lamentations begins with the announcement that Jerusalem is empty and the ends with the writer asking whether God has deserted the people of Israel once and for all.


It would be nice if joy and peace were the typical status of our hearts and minds, but such isn’t always the case. So we have things like blues music and lamentations to express our feelings. They help us be real with ourselves and real with God.

Benjamin and I love to smoke meat together. We are not purists. We do it the modern way, with an electric smoker, a remote thermometer, and wood pellets. Salmon, whole chickens, and baby back ribs are our favorites. But, BBQing isn’t about the food. It’s about spending a few hours together. 

The food finally comes out of the smoker it goes to the table. Usually it’s paired with some sort of potato, vegetable, and pie. And if we are really blessed, a bunch of people to share the meal with. We tell stories from the past. Share hopes about our future. And listen and laugh together. It’s all worth it and then some. 

Today we start a new series called Love Does. It’s based upon a wonderful little book of the same title. The premise is that everyday we wake up with an invitation to do love. When a blues song describes our life, we have the invitation to do love. When we wonder if God has deserted us, we have the invitation to do love. When we are surrounded by loved ones enjoying God’s creation, we have the invitation to do love. 

The poets tell us love is a feeling. She says, “I’m in love with him.” The Bible doesn’t use the word “love” that way. Love is a verb. It is something we do. Jesus tells us to love God and love others. We do it when we feel like doing it and when we don’t feel like doing it at all.

So enjoy the music this morning. AJ and the band have worked hard. Enjoy the BBQ. We are grateful God provides things like friends and food. And take this five-week journey of doing love and living out the Gospel. It’s going to be an amazing experience.

The best it yet to come…

Craig

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter Column

Jesus was relationally sad. The night before his death, Jesus shared his last meal with his twelve buddies. He looked them in the eye as he broke the bread for the last time. He held back the tears as he blessed the cup. Peter would soon deny him. Not once. But three times. Judas would betray him. Not just any betrayal. A betrayal that would cost Jesus his life. Goodbyes are never easy. Denials and betrayals are as tough as it gets. Heartbroken.


Jesus was emotionally spent. His trial could not have been easy. The soldiers mocked him. They asked if Elijah was coming to save him. They even spit on him. The very people he came to serve and save ridiculed him. Dejected.

Jesus was physically abused. He took a beating. Nails through his hands. A sharp crown of thorns on his head. He was bruised and bloody. He hung on a cross gasping for air. Broken.

Jesus was spiritually searching. He cried out with a loud scream: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” He didn’t use the word Father. He used the word God. Not close enough to call Him Father. Only close enough to call Him God. Isolated.

And then three days later he rose from the dead. None of the Gospel writers give much detail as to what happened because the details don’t really matter. What matters is that Jesus is alive again.

Heartbroken. Dejected. Battered. Isolated. Alive again.

The betrayal was overcome. The dejection was destroyed. The brokenness was restored. The isolation was overwhelmed. Death was defeated.

We worry about tomorrow. We carry hurts from the past. We wonder if there is more to life. Our busyness consumes us. It seems hopeless that the future will be better than the past. We are sick of being tired. We are slowly dying.

The big stone was rolled away from the tomb. We don’t know if Jesus limped or leaped as he re-entered the world. We only know God raised Jesus from the dead. And we know that God was just getting warmed-up because He has been raising people from the dead ever since.

Our worries. Our hurts. Our fears of dying. Our fears of not living. Our busyness. Our hopelessness. Our fatigue. Our broken hearts. Our rejection. Our dejection. Our brokenness. Our loneliness. God invites us to experience resurrection in all areas of life. He invites us to experience new life so that we can be alive again. Sounds like an invitation worth accepting.

Happy Easter,

Craig

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Holy Week Explained

Worship with us this week.

Maundy Thursday - 6:30 p.m. at Tiburon
Good Friday - 12:00 and 6:30 at the ministry center
Easter Sunrise - 7:00 at church property
Easter - 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 at Millard West


Maundy Thursday 

Maundy is from the Latin "mandatum", the first word of Jesus’ teaching from John 13:34 - "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus was sharing his last meal with the twelve men who would be responsible for taking the Gospel to the nations. No time for small talk. Not even time for good stuff. Only his best words. “I’m going to make this simple. You need to remember this: Love others as I have loved you.” 

Good Friday 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. What He really gave us, of course, was Himself. He experienced pain, humiliation, and death so we can experience love, forgiveness, and life. The world hasn't been the same since and your world doesn't have to be the same ever again. No single word or collection of words could ever describe this day. So "good" will have to do. 

Saturday 

The other days have a name: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Saturday is just Saturday which is more than enough. It was a day of darkness when Satan celebrated victory over God and dominion over the world. In the epic game of chess against the Almighty One Himself - Satan delivered a surprising, come-from-behind checkmate. Hope he enjoys it while it lasts because he gets a surprise tomorrow: the King still has another move. 

Easter

It begins in the despair of the dark caused by the sin of the world and the hatred of many. Fear was widespread. Satan delighted in Christ's death. But it's Easter morning and Satan's party comes to an abrupt ending when he discovers the once defeated man has emerged from the tomb. Christ is alive. It was the day death died. Checkmate. Hope overcomes despair. Light silences darkness. Grace forgives sin. Love replaces hate. Faith calms fears. Life resurrects death. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fried Reuben Sandwiches

The fried reuben turned out great.  

Here is what you need.

Marble rye bread
Butter
Slice corned beef
Slice pastrami
Fresh sauerkraut
Thousand Island Dressing
Swiss cheese
Gruyere cheese
Flour
Beer
Lots of canola oil

Mix the beer an flour together to form a batter. Stir it up good.

Place the corned beef and pastrami on a frying pan to warm up. Add the cheese. Cover for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Remove. Butter the rye bread on one side. Place two slices of bread on the flying pan. Brown the bread. Remove. Put Thousand Island dressing on the unbutton side of the bread. Put meat and cheese on one of the slices of bread. Cover with sauerkraut. Complete sandwich.

Dip sandwich in batter. Drop sandwich in hot oil on turkey fryer. Fry for about 60 to 90 seconds.

Dip the deep fried reuben in thousand island dressing for a true culinary delicacy. 

This is a wonderful sandwich without being deep fried.

Dipping the sandwich in the batter.

The frying process.

Straight out of the fryer.

Ready to eat.

Benjamin enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Palm Sunday Prayer

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Here is the prayer we are using Sunday.


Dear God,

It’s Palm Sunday. 

Jesus arrived to a defiant city on a donkey to people shouting “Hosanna.”
   Enter my disobedient heart.
   Replace my pride with humility.
   Release me. Rescue me.

Form in me a deep desire to trust You more fully.
   Give me a faithful obedience to follow You whenever and wherever.
Forge in me the strength to listen to and respond to Your voice.
   May I say “yes” to Your plans and promises.
   May I say “no” to the competing shallow securities of this world.

Eliminate prideful attitudes that separate me from community with others 
   and distance me from closeness and intimacy with You.
Eradicate my behavior of constantly comparing myself with others 
   and teach me that my worth and value in life is a gift from You.

Rescue me from the double standard of singing “Hosanna” in worship 
   and shouting “crucify him” at work, with friends, and even at home.
Release me from the hypocrisy of worshipping You with my words at church
   but denying You with my actions in the community.

Prevent me from holding on to habits that are harmful to me and hurtful to others.
   Let the destructive parts of my life die and disappear.
Prepare me for resurrection and new life that comes as a gift from You. 
   Let reconstruction begin and make me alive again!

You entered a holy city to people waving palm branches and waiting for a King.
Enter my life to make me holy, victorious, and obedient to the King of all Kings.

Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

David Being Interviewed By a Kentucky News Station

So, David and Amber went to the UK game in Des Moines tonight. The kid always ends up on television some how and tonight was no exception. A station in eastern Kentucky interviewed him and he was happy to share his story.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Seven Mile Miracle - It is Finished

A sermon based on the three last words Jesus spoke before his death: "It is Finished." We looked at how Jesus finished strong and how we can finish strong as well.

Friday, March 11, 2016

An Update from the Building Team

I have some news from the building team. The team has been working closely with our architect, BCDM, since January. We close all our meetings by praying together. And before that the last item for discussion is: What do we need to communicate to the congregation? Here are the communication items from this week’s meeting.


1. The primary task of our meetings and discussions has been developing and finalizing the schematic design of the building. The master plan gave us a general picture. The schematic design will provide the details. It has been a great process so far and I’m excited for you to see the results. We are hoping to have the schematic design completed by May 1st.

2. The team will be interviewing three construction companies the next month. Are firms are local and come highly recommended. The interviews should be complete by mid-April and we are aiming to have the construction company hired by May 1st. 

3. The team is considering two options for our phase one construction. The two options are nearly identical with two exceptions: Option 2 has a larger gathering area and a large group area for children. Many in the church felt these two items were critical for the future success of The Water’s Edge. Your building team has listened. Both options will be priced. Costs and benefits will be considered. Our church leadership is committed to not going in to debt to a degree that our ministries will be adversely impacted. 

4. The most common question the team is getting is: “When will we break ground?” At this time, the building team does not know when we will break ground. We are hoping to have a response to this question by May 1st. Currently the team is working on zoning and other permits with the city of Omaha, finishing the schematic design, and finalizing a loan with our lender.

5. We are also hearing the question: “Will Pastor Craig’s sabbatical slow down the building process?” At this time, my renewal leave shouldn’t have any effect on the timeline for the building project. We are working hard to complete many items by May 1st, so my sabbatical might actually help expedite things a bit!

What can you do?

1. Pray. Pray hard and often. This is an amazing project and will be a blessing to us and out city. 

2. Keep your pledge current for the From the Ground Up Campaign. If you haven’t made a pledge yet, I would be happy to talk to you! Additional gifts at this point would be a huge blessing.

3. Ask questions and share ideas. Ron Christensen, our business administrator, is a great resource. Any of the eight people on the building team are happy to listen and respond. I always welcome conversations too!

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Distracted

A prayer for all those who are distracted.


Dear God,

I’m distracted.

Distracted by comparison.
Distracted by worry.


Connected to computers and cell phones.
Connected to calendars and chores.

Disconnected from others.
Disconnected from You.

Let me sit at Your feet.
Become my one true and holy passion.

Amen.

#PrayersFromTheWatersEdge

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring

Perseverance doesn't make noise or draw attention to itself.
It is most likely a gentle whisper that says:
Keep trying until you break through and blossom.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sermon: Thirsty for More of Life

I looked at the Scripture passage where Jesus said: "I am thirsty." I also looked at the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

It is a message for all those who are thirsty for more of life.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Basketball Buddies

David and his buddy, Clark, after the last basketball game of the year.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Daily Morning and Evening Prayer

Here is my attempt at two prayers to be prayed early in the morning and late in the evening. This pattern of prayers seeks to honor an ancient and sacred tradition where followers of Christ seek to give the first and last moments each day to God. I encourage you to take a few minutes daily and pray them consistently for a few weeks. Be open to what God is wanting to do in you and through you.


For the Start of a New Day

Dear God,

It is a new day. One You have made.
I am so grateful for this life You are giving me!
Let me see today’s possibilities. 
Fill me with faith and joy.

I pray for focus when You want me to be still.
I pray for patience when things don’t go my way.
I pray for courage when You lead me to be bold.
I pray for forgiveness when I make mistakes.

When life gets to be too much – refresh me with Your grace.
When I face challenges and decisions – instruct me with Your wisdom.

Make it clear when I should listen and when I should speak.
Bless me with opportunities to serve, to grow, and to love. Let me be a blessing to others.
May my life today reflect Your goodness.

Amen.

For the End of a Day

Dear God, 

The sky is dark and night has arrived. 
I’m tired. I come seeking sleep. 
Bless me with rest for my soul, mind, and body. 
During these quiet hours, restore me to peace and harmony. 

I thank You for today. 
   For Your provision of my physical needs. 
   For the people I share life with. 
   For the trials that are making me stronger. 
   For everybody and everything I take for granted. 
   And, for Your grace and Your presence in my life. 

As I lay down I give myself to You. 
   I give You my failures. Teach me to learn and help me keep moving forward.
   I give You my fears. Erase the worries from my mind. Help me be brave.
   I give You my hurts. Heal me and make me new again.
   I give You my dreams. Align my vision for life with Your will. 

In peace I lay down to sleep, for you alone will keep me safe. –Psalm 4:8 
You will watch over me and won’t slumber or sleep. –Psalm 121:4 
Prepare me for tomorrow. 

Amen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sermon on Despair

Yesterday's message based on Luke 27:46 

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Eleven Steps to Forgiveness

A few weeks ago I talked about forgiveness. The next week I talked about salvation, which is another way of talking about forgiveness. A guy emailed me a few days later. He agreed forgiveness is a good thing. And, his question was a good one: How do I accept God’s forgiveness and live as a forgiven person? 

So I created a eleven-step path. They aren’t really eleven sequential steps. No two people are the same. We all come to the journey with different histories. Some of the steps will be easy and other will be difficult. Some won’t be as important and others will be essential. Some will have already been taken. Others seem miles away.


1. Confess your sins. Become self-aware. Be thorough. Write it down, if necessary. Don’t blame others. The goal is not to beat yourself up. The goal is to be more fully aware of who you are, who God is, and who you can become.

2. Ask for forgiveness from people you have hurt along the way. Take full responsibility. The other person may or may not forgive you. That is up to them. Your part is to ask. This will produce empathy and compassion for people you have hurt. Those are good things.

3. Guilt has a positive function. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go away entirely. Guilt is a reminder of pain we have caused others and ourselves and prevents us from doing it again.

4. Don’t take the journey alone. Invite a few others to be your travelling companions. Listen to their words of approval. Know you are not alone.

5. Dream about who you can become. Ask the question: What would my life look like if I lived as a forgiven person? That is your destination.

6. Embrace the journey. Accepting God’s forgiveness / forgiveness of self doesn’t happen in a day. It happens daily. Don’t get frustrated you are not at the destination. Focus on your next few steps and celebrate progress.

7. Practice gratitude. You have lots to be thankful for, including your mistakes and failures. Think about how these experiences have made you stronger and better and helped you experience growth. 

8. Love yourself. You are more than your mistakes. You are more than your failures. God loves you. Forgiveness will not happen until you practice self-compassion and appropriate love of self.

9. Keep on praying. Jesus tells us to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Praying is about discovering God’s will.

10. Engage God’s words daily. You will regularly encounter God loving and forgiving. 

11. Keep forgiving yourself. Forgiving self is not a single transaction. It’s a journey. A difficult one but one worth taking.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Basketball

We play pretty much every day after school.
Is so fun because he loves playing so much.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

College Letter

Benjamin has been getting a lot of these. This is my favorite so far.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Moments and Seconds

I found myself looking at photographs of the boys last night. Their sparkly blue eyes. Their smiles as big as the moon. They loved exploring, playing jokes on people, and laughing.


And then I thought about time. Both kinds of time. I thought about what the Greeks call chronos. Like the clock on your wall or your wrist or your phone. It is relentless. It stops for nothing or nobody. I was in some of those photographs. The boys aren’t the only one who look younger in the photos. My legs don’t work as well as they once did and neither do my eyes. Time is relentless. It marches on one second at a time and there is nothing anybody can do about it.

I sometimes wonder where the time has gone. I wish I could hit the rewind button or at least the pause button. Things I want to do over. Things I desire to do again. But I can’t. Time just keeps ticking. 

The Greeks have another word for time. It’s not the kind of time measured in seconds, but moments. The word is kairos. It has nothing to do with a clock. It can’t be measured quantitatively. It’s a qualitative thing. 

Kierkegaard wrote: “Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.” He was saying our lives consist of minutes and hours and days and weeks. Things like schedules and calendars tell us where and when and what and who. Persistent attention on seconds causes us to miss sacred moments. 

God teaches about kairos in Ephesians 5:16: “Make the most of your time, because these days are evil.” The days, they are evil. They will wear you down and wear you out, if you let them. Anxiety about agendas and assignments will lead us to the question we all dread: “I wonder where the time has gone?”

Kierkegaard and Paul are pretty much saying the same thing and it goes something like this: Live in the moment. Live. Don’t exist. Live. Obligations occur. I get that. You have responsibilities. I get that too. But make the most of your time. Enjoy. Explore. Laugh. Listen. Love. Slow down a little bit. Things like joy and happiness aren’t going to be experienced running from place to place with a mind that is constantly preoccupied and distracted.

Vicki Corona, in her book, Tahitian Choreographies, wrote phrase we agree with but seldom apply: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away!” 

Intentionally seek those kairos moments in our chronos world. 

The best is yet to come…

Craig