Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Morning Prayers

At the high point on our hike.
Toni and I had a great time yesterday, hiking together alongside the St. Croix River, visiting around the area where we lived for 13 years, and having dinner to celebrate 31 years of marriage. (Our anniversary is coming up in just over a week.)

We came to Taylors Falls when I was called to serve as pastor of one of the churches there. Both of us feel deep heart connections with many of the people there. It's nice now that we're living closer to that community, and still not too far from our dear ones in Cokato and Dassel. Ladysmith and Glen Flora Wisconsin are about an hour nearer too.

Those communities, and the churches that called me to serve, have been places where God not only provided houses to live in but deep friendships too. And now we've been called to an in-between place where we frankly aren't sure just where God wants us to connect on a daily and weekly basis. Beginning in about 2005 God had provided deep connections with a group of Christian leaders in the Twin Cities, but that community has been scattered now for reasons I don't understand.

Receiving prayer at Crossroads.
I feel personally scattered. My heart is pulled in different directions. There's a longing in me for the Great Day of God's promise, when all these and more will be gathered and never be divided again.

Toni and I were talking on the way home about where it is that we will be "going to church" tomorrow. We did make a decision, but just for today. You have prayed for us and we ask that you continue -- as we pray for you. And share any wisdom you may have. Let's hold each other close today -- and each day. I'm confident God will lead us to good connections here... but I just don't know where.

(I still remember with tears the times of parting that we shared in each of our communities. We love you and always will.)


When I woke an hour ago, I was crying out to the Lord about all of this. As I often do, I looked at Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" devotion for today. It's titled "God's Silence--Then What?" I found comfort as I read it. Maybe you will too. Click here

Friday, October 9, 2015

Family Update

It's been a week since I've written or published anything here. I've been doing just fine and my work is going well. We're getting more settled in our house though we're still taking care of things that are connected with our move from Cokato. One day at a time! Tomorrow we'll do something to celebrate our wedding anniversary, though the actual date is still more than a week away. Better early than late!

Toni and the kids are doing great. 
  • Toni is building her Wellspring Massage Therapy business here in Roseville. She's joined a women's Bible study at a local church and is trying to figure out what her husband's new career means for her and our life together. It's sure different than being married to a pastor! Click <here> for her website or <here> for the Wellspring facebook page.

  • We saw daughter Naomi last weekend as her husband Tim was running the Twin Cities Marathon. She's doing really well at Spark House as a resource developer -- and as a freelance writer and editor. She and Tim are very involved in developing and supporting their new church, Roots Covenant in St. Paul.

    On her website (click <here> to visit) Naomi writes: "I am a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis-St.Paul with a B.A. in journalism and reconciliation studies. My specialties include human interest, faith & spirituality, culture, publishing, books, and travel. I’ve worked as a general assignment reporter, so I am confident reporting on any topic. As an editor I specialize in general nonfiction and memoir."

  • Toni brought son Dan to the airport yesterday. He's off to Spain to spend time with his special lady Shatera and a couple of her friends. Shatera is spending the semester in Europe as a part of her Bethel University studies. Dan teaches me often through what he posts online through his blog and especially on facebook. Connect with him on facebook <here> or on his blog "Indigatio Veri" <here> and learn with me!

    When he's not traveling Dan is leading the youth program at Northgate Church in Ramsey, MN, northwest of Minneapolis.

read the article here
  • Jon and his wife Breanna and our granddaughter Lydia are moving to Cokato. The news story pictured at right is mostly accurate, though Jon is actually the "associate" pastor... the article barely mentions Steve Basney who we are thrilled will be working with Jon. Click <here> for the Crossroads website and <here> for the youth page they published this week.

    Here's what was posted on on the Crossroads facebook page:
    "We here at Crossroads are excited to announce the hiring of 2 new pastors.

    "Steve Basney will serve as interim pastor. Steve is a pastor, a hard working husband and father, and a Partner at Crossroads. Previously Steve served as pastor at Open Arms Community Church in Howard Lake. Both he and his wife LuAnne have been involved with "YWAM" (Youth With A Mission) for many years. Steve and his wife LuAnne have two children, Alison and Natali and live in Cokato.

    "Jon Thorson will serve as Associate Pastor. Jon and his wife Breanna are DC alum. Jon and Breanna have a passion for evangelism and a love for this community. Jon has a vision for teaching, discipleship, family, youth, outreach, evangelism, and worship. Along with those same passions, Breanna has her own for women's ministry, and moms (they are the proud parents of 1 year old Lydia) and for people with disabilities. Jon has a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies with Ministerial Preparation. Breanna has a B.A in Youth Development with an emphasis on Disability Ministry. Jon and Breanna will also be leading the youth programs and Praise & Worship on Sunday mornings at Crossroads.

    "We are very excited to welcome Steve and Jon."
It's time for me to get my uniform on and get out the door. My work takes up almost 9 hours a day Monday-Friday. In the morning I leave home at 5:15 and get back at 8:30. Afternoons I leave home at 2:50 and get back at 8:30 p.m. I'm driving Metro Transit buses based at the Heywood Garage just northwest of Target Field. We're living in Roseville so I drive 15-25 minutes to and from work twice each day. 

I am truly enjoying my work and this new life, though there are many pieces still to put in place. I do want to be somehow active in direct ministry but am not sure how that should happen. 

Yesterday as I was on my first trip of the afternoon, a younger man, probably in his late 20s, got on my bus (downtown) at about 4:00, obviously drunk. He left after a few blocks after realizing it was the wrong bus. Tears came to my eyes and I thought, what can I do to help all these broken people God loves so much? I will certainly pray... interceding before God my Father... but is there anything else God is calling me to do?

Please pray for me as I, and we, discern what's next.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Learning Each Day

I wish I could take you all on a ride in one of the buses I drive on a day like yesterday. I'm frankly amazed at the skills that have been building in my eyes and hands and feet and brain over the past 18 weeks. I could not count the number of challenges I face on each trip that I drive. This not only builds "faith reflexes" (like I wrote about on Tuesday), but practical skills too.

Rush hour bus driving in the Twin Cities is so different than my previous work driving for the Dassel-Cokato school district. Each moment in the garage and each moment on the roads and streets presents things I need to see and hear, decisions I need to make, and actions I need to take. Though I drive trips on the same three routes each day** no two days are alike.

Yesterday, for example, I pulled out from the garage late both in the morning and in the afternoon. In the morning it was because the bus ahead of me didn't move until it was too late.*** Everything else went well. I was only 5 minutes late arriving downtown and a little over 10 late by the time I was back in the garage.

Then, in the afternoon, I met with my manager, headed out to the garage, got my bus ready to go but then heard a loud hissing noise coming from under the bus. I found a red hotline to dispatch phone and waited for a mechanic. He determined it was a "bad bus" and brought me to another. That meant I ended up pulling out late then too, and had to ask transit control to approve a change in my route so I could get back on track.

Imagine the left lane full of buses too -- and lots of lane changing.
That began an afternoon and evening of being late and dealing with tremendously heavy traffic downtown -- partly caused by a bus that had broken down on the Marquette Avenue transit corridor. If I were an experienced driver I'm sure I would have been a bit quicker, but I honestly did a pretty good job... with the exception of one error I needed to recover from. (I think I recovered quite well -- insert a visual of me patting myself on the back.) In any case I was a half hour late on both trips even though I had to skip my bathroom break. My customers were patient--praise God for that.

Anyway, like I said at the beginning, there are so many skills that are developing. All in all it's going very well. Every day I learn something new. I can only imagine how good I'll be at this after a few more months.

I had no idea of what I was getting into when I sensed a call to take this on, but I'm praising God for each new day.

What are you learning through the challenges God is putting in front of you? What does he want to teach you? Are you ready to learn? Let me know what you need prayer for as we face each new day in our own lives.


*I operate a Metro Transit bus during rush hours Monday through Friday. I've been doing this since bus operator training on July 15, but the skills have been developing since training began June 8.

**Most bus operators drive trips on the same routes each day until they change. Four times a year we "pick" our bus driving duty--duties that last approximately three months. The current pick started August 22 and ends December 11.

***There was another complication yesterday morning but I don't remember now what it was. I had to call dispatch and tell them what was going on because I'm still a new driver and I need to make sure any challenges I have are documented. Probation lasts 6 months. For me that will be until January 15.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In The Moment

On Sunday morning I got up thinking that I'd bike down to Mission Point Church but ended up locking myself out of the house. I could have waited to get a key from our landlord, Paul Anderson, until after worship but somehow it made sense to just go to his house right away. (Toni was out of town with her parents.)

So, instead of worshiping with my Mission Point friends, I went to Paul's house for worship at what they call Lydia House Church. Paul and his wife Karen have a home on Lydia Avenue, about a half mile west of the place we're renting. About 40 people gathered outdoors--it was a perfect morning. I was thankful for the opportunity and felt really positive about the time. (Maybe I'll post something about the message later.)

At one point we were encouraged to talk with one or two others about what God has been doing in our lives. I told the man who was sitting next to me that God has been working with me on quick faith reflexes -- that is, by putting me into circumstances where I'm tempted to get rattled or fearful, God is helping me to trust him in the moment. I have come to trust my Father God for the big things. Now He wants me to trust him for the momentary things too.

If you've been following this blog you know that the Lord has been bringing me (and us) through many changes, and, in my case, the Lord has brought me into a new profession that requires moment by moment alertness. Even this morning I could feel my faith reflexes being tested on my bus route, as I encountered the unique challenges that came my way today. I feel the fight in my soul between trusting God and getting rattled -- especially as I have to recover quickly from the (mostly minor) mistakes that I make every day.

I was reminded of that again this morning as I read Psalm 112 where it says:
... Surely the righteous* will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear ...
I am trusting that God is developing a more solid character in me through these days. I look forward to resting in His promises even when the momentary stress comes on me again this afternoon.

How is God teaching you to trust him in the moments of this day in your life? Keep alert for what He is doing in you now!


* I trust Jesus to give me His righteousness. He gives his goodness and perfect life to you and to me on the cross. We receive it now when we say "yes" and decide to trust in Him. Let me know if you have questions about this so you can be secure in His Big Promises too.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Working It Out

Now that we've moved to Roseville we're needing to get a lot done, making the home we're renting into a place we like to be--plus there are details like changes of address and other "business" type things that need to be taken care of. Some of those things have to do with finances, and that's partly why I was especially needing reassurance yesterday.*

I don't recall how much I've written about our personal financial situation on this blog. For many years we had plenty and to spare. There was a lot of emphasis in my previous employment on the need to treat pastors well. That was a great thing for Toni and I, and for our kids, and for many others who we were able to share with.

We were able to set funds aside during those years, and it's a good thing too, because what I'm making in my work as a bus operator isn't enough to cover our living expenses right now. And, besides that, there are things that can happen which could put even my current relatively meager wages at risk. I'm doing pretty well as a driver, but I do make mistakes, and if certain mistakes are serious enough, and if they come to the attention of those in authority, it's possible that I could lose this job. Then we'd need to use savings even more.**

This move that God has been directing hasn't only been from Cokato to the Twin Cities.
    + It's a move from the "professional" world of salaried work to the world of wage work. (I noticed that today when I got saw what was paid to me for the first half of September. I had Labor Day off--but it was unpaid.)
     + It's a move from the luxury of working on my own schedule to being kept track of, minute by minute, from the time I drive out of the bus garage until I shut the bus down at the end of the morning and evening. (Computer systems track the buses and transit supervisors keep are out on the streets to keep watch.)
     + It's a move from the familiar patterns of life of the veteran, experienced pastor to the unfamiliar life of a rookie. (That's obvious every time I move my bus around inside the Heywood Garage. Nerve wracking... as was this week's "Bus Roadeo" that I freely chose to try out. Like my friend Andy said, it's a good thing we didn't need to pay for cones.)

In short, it's a move from relative security to a "one day at a time" life. And if it wasn't for the fact that I've seen signs of God's purposes being worked out through these changes, I'd wonder if the whole move hadn't been a big mistake. But I do see signs and have watched God working things out for good.

In faith, I expect to see more evidence of that in the days to come. Even if the worst should happen, I believe God will be true to his promise. He will work everything out--for good--for me--and for all who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). These promises are sure and solid because of Jesus, who died and rose from the dead for me and the whole world. I cling to him every time I'm afraid.

So we've moved from having some of our security in "things" and "profession" and "institution" to a more direct dependence on God himself. I believe will know Him better and better as we pass through these days.

This summer, on August 30, Toni and I were privileged to hear a message by Al Jones of New Life Assembly of God in Cokato.*** Al was sharing a series of messages on the Old Testament man of God Joseph, and the one we heard was entitled Joseph--Man of Destiny. I remember that now as I reflect on these days.

As Al proclaimed, "God never gives up on his destiny for you." I receive that, Lord, and I will confidently look ahead to how you will work it out.


*see yesterday's post on this blog

**There's a 6 month probationary period to get through for all of us bus operators. By the end of next week I'll have only 3½ months to go.  :-|   Uff da. It's so long! At least we were able to buy into company sponsored health insurance as of earlier this month. That helps.

***On <this webpage> (click link) you can find and listen to Al Jones' August 30 message "Joseph: Man of Destiny." On that Sunday morning Al proclaimed how God worked through and in Joseph as he interpreted a dream and wisely ruled Egypt during a period of plenty--followed by famine. (This is one of the biblical stories that is used to promote savings among believers. Read it in Genesis 41.)


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Word for Today

Early this morning I saw the scripture verses and prayer that you can see above.* Words of God's protection. Words of reassurance in times of trouble and doubt.

I didn't know how much I'd need them until later in the day. Ask me and I'll tell you the story. In fact, I'd really like to do that. Message me, text or call me whenever you read this, whether it's tonight, tomorrow, next week or next year. Thanks.

It's so good to know the Word of God. Every Day. And it's good to share the ways that God's Word blesses so we can grow in faith.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.


* from today's Moravian Daily Texts.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Open for Connection

Written this morning around 4 o'clock.

Good morning! I'm writing this in a document offline. We're not yet connected to the internet here at our new home in Roseville. Yesterday I did what I needed to get us started but there was some problem with the internet connection. The provider will send someone over on Thursday to figure out what is wrong.

There's still a lot to do around the house but Toni and I both spent yesterday doing other things, including a few minutes connecting with the young man who is living now in the basement. Toni fed him a little supper yesterday and during the day, when I was scurrying around doing this and that, he offered to mow our back yard. We'll enjoy having him here. (There's another young man who will be living here too, but not until October.)

When I got back home yesterday after my morning work I saw kids standing at the bus stop at our corner. I went over and talked with two of the dads who were with their kids there. One of them is a football coach at Northwestern. He was on his way to work--the "University of Northwestern" is 4 blocks east of here, on the north side of Lydia Avenue, just on the other side of Snelling. (We're on the east side, Northwestern is on the west.)

After my PM work today I plan to go over to Communitas, the young adult ministry that our new landlord oversees. He (Paul Anderson) has been encouraging me to consider some sort of a pastoral role there, perhaps with a small group of guys. I've told him that I'll think about it and pray about it after tonight. I'll be a lot better at discerning what the Lord is saying about that after I've spent at least a little more time with the group there.*

I'm excited about the ministry possibilities in the new environment where the Lord has placed us. One thing I know is that those opportunities will involve relationships -- relationships with other mature believers and relationships with others who are at various points on their spiritual journeys. I look forward to seeing what the Lord will do as we follow him in connecting around here.

On Sunday Toni and I heard a message at Northgate Church (as of now it's not yet posted online) that focused on the friendships God desires for us. Our wealthy western world is relationally challenged. We are often isolated these days because of our independent attitudes and relatively wealthy, convenience-driven lives. We'll be needing to follow Jesus' lead in reaching out and being vulnerable to others around here so friendship and ministry opportuniites can grow. Pray for us in that.

Well, my 4:30 AM morning alarm is going off now. I've already had a bit of breakfast so I'll probably lie down for a few minutes before heading our the door for my morning work. I'll stop somewhere later where I can connect to the internet and get this online. God bless and guide you all. May you and I be open to His leading today.


Note as of 10:10 AM - I actually didn't take time to go anywhere to post this. I used my phone as a mobile hotspot again. Don't know how many more times I can use it without running out of data.


* A few years ago someone who had a reputation as being especially able to hear from God, but who did not know me gave me a special "word" from the Lord. That word was that God was at work in my life to break the "orphan spirit" in people. She said, however, that I don't do that in any official capacity, as in a program of some sort, but just because of who I am as a person. When she said that I immediately said yes, I can see that is true in my life. Pray that I would follow God's lead as He uses me as He chooses in this new place.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A New Day on Lydia

the view from my recliner
I've been writing and praying for about an hour out in the 3-season sunroom of the home we're moving into. Here are some reflections and prayers for this first day in this new place.

I started out with a line that I read yesterday and then posted on facebook:

"Watch when God changes your circumstances to see whether you are going on with Jesus, or siding with the world, the flesh, and the devil."
That line is from yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest (click the link to read it) and it fits what's going on in our lives right now. God has moved us to 1490 Lydia Ave. W. in Roseville. The Lord provided many family members and friends of family to get everything from a semi-trailer into the house. Now we have the big task of putting things away.

It's a pleasant house but also smaller than the homes we've been used to during the last 30 years. Our income is less too, though we have some assets to draw on as we decide to do so.

I'm writing this using my cell phone as a "hotspot." We don't have an internet connection here. We don't have television yet either. In fact, we haven't yet switched over any of the utilities to our name.

Here are some things we could use prayer and even advice or help about as we settle here:

> Please pray for us and encourage us as we make decisions about spending, including on things like an internet connection and necessities. (Our fridge is almost empty right now and a key part of the coffee maker is missing and there are lots of other things we'll "need" to spend money on.) There are so many things that we think we need these days. Many scripture passages are running through my head as I pray over these things. Even your advice would be welcome.

> Pray that this would be a blessed time for Toni and me together as we learn to live together in this new place. From early June until just before the closing on our Cokato house (Sep. 9) I was staying with my parents most of the time in their Minneapolis condo. During that time Toni and I were together on weekends but that was about it. Last night we slept in our own bed and it felt good! Still, as we make all the decisions (above) we'll need extra grace for each other as we work through what is essential and optional. Pray that I'll honor Toni's wisdom in all of this.

> Pray for our landlord, Paul Anderson, and the others who will be living in this house. A young man named Jesse already moved his bed into a basement bedroom and Paul will be making a space for a second young man soon. God will be drawing us into some sort of ministry partnership with Paul too, especially as the Lord continues to bring young adults into our lives. Pray that we'll be good mentors and generous elders. (To learn something about Paul's ministries go to No guarantees that what you find there is all up to date!)

I think I need to stop writing now and either go back to bed or get some things done. Later this morning we'll go up to the church where our son Daniel is working as a youth ministry director. That's up in Ramsey, about 25 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. (Click here for the Northgate Church staff webpage. Scroll down quite a way for Dan's pic!) Then tomorrow it will be back to work!

May you know God's presence with you wherever you go, and may you also seek God's way during these days.

Friday, September 18, 2015

God Moves Us

Tomorrow morning we start to move into a house that God has provided for us here in Roseville.

I write that statement in faith. God has been leading us on this journey... most recently from Cokato to Roseville. I will say it, loud and clear, because I believe there is a spiritual enemy who is tempting us, always, to deny the power and ways of God in our lives.

This morning, in today's My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes this:
"Satan does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things—he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us through regeneration, namely, the possibility of being of value to God."
One of the things that makes us "of value to God" is the life of FAITH, the life of trusting and proclaiming that God is involved. And when you or I do not believe or say that God is in charge of our lives, that's what happens. We are of less value to the Kingdom of God than we would have been otherwise.

Lots more to write about this but I need to get dressed and on to the bus route that the Lord has given me to drive this morning. Take a look at Oswald's devotion for today. Yesterday's was good too.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hearing God

I started writing this early this week.


It's Monday morning and I'm at my mom and dad's for a bit. Yesterday (Sunday) morning at Naomi and Tim's church, we met after worship for a learning community -- about 15 people stayed to begin a video and discussion series. We heard a short video challenge from Francis Chan related to the Holy Spirit.

As an example of this Francis starts the video by telling about a time when he felt he needed to hear from God. He went to a beach to have quiet time, sitting on a blanket with a coffee and a muffin. He looked out on the ocean, and he asked God what God wanted from him. "What's your will for my life?" And he heard God. He heard God say --
Aw that's cute. Look at you on your little blanket... with your little coffee and muffin... I hope you're comfortable.

Meanwhile there are millions of people that I created on that planet and they will never get a chance to do what you're doing right now. They'll never stand on a seashore and ask "
What's your will for my life?" They're just trying to stay alive today.

Think about the earth and all those millions of people and what do you think my will is for you... when there are people who just want to feed their kids?
"I think it's pretty obvious," said Francis, "about what God says in His Word about His will. I remember telling the church, 'Look, I don't think we're even close to being serious about loving our neighbor as ourself."

There's a lot more to learn. You can see the rest of the little video that we saw yesterday morning at this link < > but I'd like to stop right here. I'd like to stop here and say something that I think is pretty obvious: We North American Christians are pretty good at focusing on ourselves.

Francis says it like this:
Sometimes we try to experience God in quiet places... but think about what scripture teaches... Jesus says "As you're going out making disciples I'll be with you... When you feed the least of these it's like you're feeding me... When you give them water it's like you're giving it to me... You see, I'm with the poor."

Sometimes we think "I've gotta find God by getting away from everyone, but it could be that God's Spirit is saying "No, find me by going and ministering to other people."
+ Now, the point of all of this isn't to get us to do things in ministry with the poor, though that's a great thing and one of the central teachings of God's Word and a great blessing for everyone.

At about the 8 minute mark, Francis gets to what I think is his main point, he says:
"...I just want you to be open. ...Pray that you would be humble enough to the possibility that just maybe you've missed some obvious teachings of the Spirit, that you haven't applied those things to your life."
He goes on:
"I've gone to Bible studies where I just want to go and impart my knowledge to other people. It seems that at every study there are people that want to just come an spew out all that knowledge. I'm not saying that we don't share what God's taught us, but sometimes when we talk so much we miss out on learning, we miss out on hearing the Holy Spirit."

God has led me (and Toni) in unexpected ways over the last 5 years. I say 5 years because it was in 2010 that some of the biggest changes came. The whole journey has been one of moving out of established patterns of a life that Toni and I had together since 1986.

I woke up a little after 2 AM today (Thursday) thinking about a particular piece of that journey and then was reminded of another part when I saw that someone had "liked" something I posted on facebook on March 21, 2010. Usually when I wake up in the night God uses the time to do some work in me. I think what God wants to do tonight is to reinforce in me the unexpected ways of His Spirit and re-open my eyes and ears to what He wants to do in me.

I reflect on this now in relation to the video that we saw at Naomi and Tim's church on Sunday. I still wonder whether we are willing to hear everything God wants to say to us--including about our finances and our relationship with those in need.

We're about ready to move into a home that is being purchased by (pastor) Paul Anderson. The closing on that house is set for Friday. We'll pay our rent and move in on Saturday. The place we're moving into is very nice. It's smaller than the place we sold in Cokato and two young men will be living in the lower level so we'll actually have a lot less indoor space than what we did there.

We're moving into that house and, in some ways at least, will move into a partnership with Paul an his work with young adults. I trust that we are following God's plan in this. But as we do, the words Francis Chan brought to mind on Sunday.

As we move into yet another comfortable home, I ask if I am (and if we are as a couple) open to everything God wants to say to us, including about our finances? Like I did in 2011, when we purchased our Cokato home, I have a real sense that this move is God's plan for us. But are there parts of our life that are still outside God's plan? And because I woke up thinking about finances, I ask if God has something he wants us to do in that part of our life, perhaps in relation to the poor (as in Francis' example) or in some other way.

Pray for Toni and I, that we would dare to hear God clearly and then act in harmony with what he has to say. Pray that we will seek Him together, perhaps especially, as Francis says, as we are called into ministry with others in this new place.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's Personal

I started writing this a couple hours ago with a really different title and a very different purpose. I was thinking about what it takes to make good choices in life, about what it takes to keep feelings and emotions from leading us along into really bad choices. One of the things I think it takes to help keep us in a good place is a solid Christian community and good trusted friends who know Jesus. But as I started reflecting on this I realized that Toni and I are, right now, in a place of "drifting" in terms of Christian community -- a place that we haven't been since we were first called to serve a local church in 1986. So I ended up writing mostly about us -- perhaps I'll write what I meant to write for others tomorrow or after. 


It's the evening of a very good day. Toni and I were actually together in the same places -- staying here at Naomi and Tim's home and having a gentle adventure on bicycles. The weather was perfect for a day off outdoors. Earlier this evening we enjoyed a supper that Naomi prepared for us. Then Toni cut my hair. Until a few minutes ago I was doing some miscellaneous stuff with our finances, trying to keep track as we go through the many changes of this move.

I've also been reaching out to a few people who I haven't seen for awhile, sending little notes or text messages. I get replies from some and not from others. Mostly that's okay, but sometimes I feel bad that I don't hear back. That's especially true now during these days of transition, before we are settled in a community that we'll be calling home.

For most of the years of my life up until now there's been a ready made community that I could participate in. When I was a kid there was always family and neighborhood, school and church. Then there was college and groups connected with that. I disconnected myself for a time like the so-called "prodigal son" but when I came back I heard the call of God to serve as a pastor and that led to communities at seminary and then at the local churches we served for 29 years.

Our daughter told Toni and I about an article she had found online, one line of which I can particularly relate to. The author is writing to pastors who have experienced what she calls "ministry loss."

She writes to "ministers" who serve local churches--and this is the truth!--
"...The people of that church become your FAMILY, your support system, your counselors, your prayer partners..."
She then explains:
"So when a minister leaves a church for whatever reason, they not only lose their source of income, their security--they also lose their place to attend church, their close friends, their support system, etc. They lose their entire way of life."
There's a lot of truth to that--even for "ministers" like me (yes, there are others) who now sense a call from God to earn their income in other ways, and who have been convicted that they have found at least some of their security in "religious" organizations that aren't as God-led as one would hope. The truth is that we did lose the day to day and week by week contact with people who we have held in our hearts as dear friends. As the author of the article says, it's good to "process the enormity of the loss" and "allow yourself time to grieve."
This is the part of a longer online article -- you can access the original here.
I posted that picture on facebook with the following note:

"As we get ready for another Sunday without being at a church that we're clearly a part of, I'm writing a blog post about this (not done yet) because in the world these days there are many people, not just pastors, who end up drifting without a solid Christian community, a local church to call 'home.' The picture is from an online article about 'ministry loss' that was shared with me by a family member... Please pray for me and Toni as we are grieving. We've gone through losses like this three times in the last 10 years and the grace of God sustains -- but it is hard."

So I ask, tonight, for your personal prayers and for your ongoing friendship. Please reach out to us during these days, especially until we find a local church community to call our own.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Receiving and Giving Grace

I'm sitting in the porch of my (our) daughter's home. I'm probably not going to write much now. I woke about an hour before my 4:30 alarm, had a bit of early breakfast and will lie down again for a few minutes before I head to my morning work. I do, though, want to express quickly something that the Lord has been saying to me over the last 40 hours.

On Wednesday Toni and I drove from here to an office on Hwy 55 in Buffalo to do the final paperwork on the sale of our Cokato home. The "closing" went smoothly. I believe it was another sign of God's grace. I am so thankful.

Anyway, later on, as I went back to work for Wednesday's second shift, and throughout the day yesterday, I was thinking and praying over all the ways we have experienced the goodness and grace of God. Yesterday morning I had a brief conversation, in passing, with someone who had extended grace to me at a crucial moment. I've also been thinking about many people who God has allowed me to share grace with, many of whom we don't see very often during these days.

Grace is unmerited, free favor, given when it's not deserved. Grace is based on God's free gift of love, love that is sealed and shown most clearly in Jesus Christ.

I don't have time to get into all the particularities and Bible examples of that right now, but I do want to say this:

All of us who have experienced great grace have a tremendous treasure to share with others. If we withhold grace, if we tell someone, through our actions or words, that grace has run out for them, we can very easily cause them to fall. (See Mark 9:42 etc.)

During the last few days Toni and I have learned about some dear ones who we have, at one time or another, had the opportunity to share grace with but who have, in recent months, made one or more poor choices that have hurt them and others. I grieve, deeply, over this, but as we have experienced great grace in many ways during recent days, I am called to pray and act with love still. I have never deserved the grace I have received from God. Why should I begrudge or deny grace to them now.

So many in this life have been deeply hurt in ways I can't even begin to understand. Their life choices sometimes end up producing more pain. The solution, it seems to me as I sit now in my daughter's porch, does have to do with sharing the grace I and we continue to receive. We're not to back away. We're to share even more, to allow the Holy Spirit to draw us closer and closer to those God puts in our path who are especially in need.

God bless you and all on this new day. Perhaps I'll edit this or write more later today.