Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Will Not Be Afraid

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't rely on your own understanding. His ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts are higher than yours. Remember that He has saved you many times in the past and trust that He will do the same in whatever He calls you do to. Remember Him in your heart and give Him credit with your words. He will make a way for you to succeed in the things He desires for you to do." (based on Proverbs 3:5-6)

As I am anticipating the tests of this coming week I am tempted to be worried and anxious. As I spent quiet time with Jesus a moment ago, He gave me his assurance, again, by means of the verses above. I say, boldly, that I will trust God, the all powerful master of All, my Father! I say, in faith, I will trust Him. I will not be afraid.


Added Monday morning, 5:00 AM

One of the Moravian Daily Texts for today reminds me of how good it is to be stepping out beyond what I think I can do on my own. Isaiah 10:12-13 speaks of the willful pride of a certain king who says:
By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding...
As I am stretching beyond my previous experience to do something new in these days, I'm thankful even for the temptation to be worried and anxious.

I'm thankful for this trial because any sense that I can "do" every day life because of my experience or wisdom is being taken away as I'm pushed beyond my comfort zone. I have an opportunity to respond with faith and trust, not to prove anything to anyone else, not to make anyone else think I'm something special, but simply because I NEED THE LORD to bring me through.

The interesting thing is that I can receive this lesson of faith and gain from this experience even before I know the outcome. Even though others may think that "I've got this" and I can "do this" under my own power and because of the skills and experience I have, I know better. I know how tempted I am to just throw in the towel and quit because of fear. I know how easy it would be to fail. I know how hard this is for me. Others may not, but that's okay. Through it all Jesus is teaching me personally and individually in a way that is not easy to share.

How is Jesus teaching you today? Will you receive what He has for you? Will you at least try to share what he is teaching you with someone else? Even if you fail, you will be blessed as you trust and listen to the Lord.

It's now 5:30 -- time to get dressed and out the door before 6:00. By 7:15 I'll be on site for the first work day and the lessons of this week.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Prayer Ready Now

In what ways are you being humiliated?

I ask that question now at 4 AM after reading yesterday's devotion* from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest.

Oswald says:
One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be totally humiliated before others without displaying even the slightest trace of anything but His grace.
How can that be done?

The title of that devotion is key: "Drawing on the Grace of God—Now." Oswald encourages us to immediately draw on the grace of God, to be prepared to do that always, right away, every time trouble comes our way.

I think of this as I reflect on a momentary situation that occurred yesterday as I carefully drove the bus down the Nicollet Mall. Being a new driver in training, I made a mistake and passed up a customer waiting at a bus stop before entering the mall. Then, a couple minutes later, I hesitated at a particular point and waited too long to cross an intersection.

At that point the bus behind me gave me a little toot of the horn and I realized I was holding up traffic. That got me just a bit flustered a bit, and for just a few minutes, the hyper-awareness required for this job was compromised. I know that because from that point until the end of that particular route I made two more small errors. No one was put at risk, but I know I wasn't as sharp as I was before that point.

It would have been better if I had prayed a quick prayer to the Lord, asking him to refocus me on my task. I am thankful for yesterday's experience and am praying I will remember that next time I'm annoyed or frustrated, whether it's with myself or someone else.

In Oswald's devotion for yesterday, he encourages us to be ready at ALL TIMES to draw on God's grace.
Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need.
At the beginning of this little early morning writing, I asked "In what ways are you being humiliated?"
  • Are you making errors while being watched carefully by a supervisor? 
  • Have you been honked at by co-workers? 
  • Are there ways in which your work is compromised through a focus on your failings? 
Oswald Chambers' devotion for yesterday would have us notice any feelings of humiliation and immediately pray, saying to the Lord, "Remove my attention from myself again, Jesus! Let me focus on what it is you want me to do here and now."

Oswald's encouragement is so good:
Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need.
As we do this regularly we will find that our reaction to annoyances and frustrations have become quick reflexes of prayer, and every breath will have us drawing on the grace of God. He will give you the peace and focus you need. And he'll do the same for me.

Here's Oswald's devotion from yesterday in its entirety:
The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed. “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses”— that is where our patience is tested (2 Corinthians 6:4). 

Are you failing to rely on the grace of God there? Are you saying to yourself, “Oh well, I won’t count this time”? It is not a question of praying and asking God to help you— it is taking the grace of God now. We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible.

Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God. We are very slow to learn to draw on God’s grace through prayer.

“…in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors…” (2 Corinthians 6:5)— in all these things, display in your life a drawing on the grace of God, which will show evidence to yourself and to others that you are a miracle of His.

Draw on His grace now, not later. The primary word in the spiritual vocabulary is now. Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself. One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be totally humiliated before others without displaying even the slightest trace of anything but His grace.

“…having nothing….” Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you. “…and yet possessing all things”— this is poverty triumphant (2 Corinthians 6:10).

* a "devotion" in this sense refers to a few paragraphs of scripture based thoughts, sort of like short sermons that are intended to be read on a day-by-day basis. These have been traditionally printed in booklets but are now commonly read online, on websites such as

Friday, June 26, 2015

It Will Be Good

It's good to be back home in Cokato after our third week of Metro Transit training. I'm getting better at the job, feeling more confident, honing skills.

Our class of 8 guys spent Monday & Tuesday in the classroom and then, on Wednesday, after a couple hours of learning and practice with wheelchair ramps/lifts and restraints we started "in service training" -- driving routes -- mainly those that we'll be tested on next week. Yesterday and today we picked up and dropped off paying passengers for the first time -- plus today we did some "hours of darkness" practice finding stops and pulling in to the required 4-6 inches from curbs. We drove freeways and downtown and uptown streets -- including the (crazy) Nicollet Mall.

My co-learner (there are two students with one instructor in each training bus) seems to have a natural aptitude for doing well. In my case I learn through repetition -- practice makes perfect. And I'm very glad we've got three more days of practice until our next test. Like I told Cheryl, the "on the bus" instructor that's spending the most time with me and my co-learner, I'm feeling a lot more optimistic now than I was before. I think I might be able to do this.

On Thursday morning, just as we were going out to pick up passengers for the first time, I saw a sign on the window of a business that echoed what the Lord has been telling me. The sign reads
I believe that's the attitude God wants me to have as I'm moving toward Thursday's test. My instructor and others have encouraged me toward confidence. She said I just need to have confidence in my skills. I know she's right.

Having customers on the bus a few times this week gave me a little feel for how this job might be once I'm actually doing it regularly. I will enjoy "being there" to serve families and elders and people of all races and abilities. Once we get through training we'll be assigned routes that we'll pretty much stick with for a few months. That will be a good thing -- both for continued building of confidence and for who knows what else in terms of the relationships God will bring my way.

First I do need to pass the test. I do ask your prayers that I would have all the faith and focus that I need to do so, using the skills that the Lord has provided through this training experience and before.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fail and Pass

Early this morning (6 a.m.) I joined the Mission Point crew for prayer.* It's been awhile since I've been "on the call" on a regular basis. Today was only the second time since I've begun Metro Transit training that it's worked out time wise for me to call in.

There were four of us on the telephone prayer conference call this morning. We normally begin with a reading from the "Moravian Daily Texts" but just as we were starting the person who was leading said her electronic Bible (her "Kindle") stopped working, so we just leapt into prayer.

As we prayed, the "Watchword for the Day" kept leaping to mind, primarily the first, from Second Samuel 22:37 -
You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.  
(Click here to read it as I found it this morning.)
Later in the day, as I was on my lunch break from Metro Transit training, I looked at the verse again, this time in context, that is, in connection with the entire chapter 22 of Second Samuel.

That verse is part of a song of victory, a song "David sang to the Lord... when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul."

God has saved me too. Most recently, even today, God saved me from fear. God saved me from focusing too much on the nerve-wracking experience I had last Friday when I first failed my driving test, spent an hour or more doing some more training, and then went out again and received a passing grade. It was so nerve wracking because a new driver only gets two chances to pass.

I am so thankful that I passed. The whole experience, including how shaky I was during the second attempt and how wrung out I felt after -- and how I've been thinking since then about all the other ways I could fail going forward -- the whole experience just leads me back to how much I am cast back on the promises of God, who will work out his purposes in my life. I can be confident in that no matter what.

Our enemy the devil wants us to focus on our failings. He wants to turn our attention from God's promises and toward our own weaknesses. Like the religious leaders who taunted Jesus on the cross, he will laugh and tell us we need to save ourselves. But just as Jesus refused to despair but instead relied on the strength of His Father, Jesus can and will help us to do the same. God the Father raised Jesus the Son from the dead. He will raise you too. Not only in the end, not only when you die and go to haven, but right in the middle of your life now.

I will continue to take steps forward with this process. But I will keep moving forward because I believe God has me in his plan. This weekend we listed our Cokato house for sale. I have no idea how the selling process will go but I will continue to take steps in that process too.

God caught me I failed. He did not let me fail the second time. I think that's because he wants me to serve Him in some way through serving as a bus operator -- at least for awhile. He lifted me up and is now re-filling me with confidence so I can pass the next trial. In Second Samuel, King David found that to be true in his life. I believe that will be the same for me -- and for my family -- and for all of those who we've been privileged to know and to love in Jesus' name.

Take a look at Second Samuel 22. In what ways has God rescued you from defeat and despair up until now? How do you need him to do that for you today? Will you ask him to do so? Maybe it would be good to ask someone to pray with you too.

God can and will lead you from right where you are. He will bring you through. He will use the abilities he has poured into you and he will intervene and intercede in unexpected ways. He will make a good path for you, so you will be able to keep going. Your spiritual ankles will not be injured. You will receive just what you need when you trust in our Lord.


*Those who have followed this blog for some time will know that I have been part of an early morning prayer group on the phone for the past few years. Those participating now, other than myself, are all part of the Mission Point Church staff -- a church that meets in a movie theater in Roseville, MN and various "missional communities" in the Twin Cities area.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn By Heart

We're in the midst of one of the testing phases of our Metro Transit bus operator training course. This morning we completed pre-trip testing and tomorrow we'll be tested on our driving skills. Right now I'm reviewing the "Preparing to Drive" section of the manual. If we pass the driving test, we'll move to the "in service" portion of training in the middle of next week, picking up and dropping off passengers! Wow!

This afternoon both I and the other man who has been doing on the road training with me passed a sort of "practice test" covering backing up (in a parking lot with cone markers) and a multitude of maneuvers on streets and freeways, traveling through both expected and unexpected situations and hazards. The "practice test" was overseen by our instructor. Tomorrow someone else will administer the real on the road test. We expect to pass, but something unexpected might happen. There are no guarantees. Frankly, I'm looking forward to getting through and over this test.

Why do we get tested? We, and countless others in many occupations, will have many people's lives in our hands. The driving examinations are in place so our employers will be satisfied that we can perform under pressure, not just to satisfy some law or employment requirement, but so we'll be less likely to kill people and cause damage to property. In the end, it's a matter of doing what we're told so we can serve people with the respect and love that God has for all who live.

I remember, years ago, when I was a young pastor, an older pastor I worked with quite a bit was big on the phrase "learn by heart." He wanted us to think of what others thought of as "memory work" (learning verses and Luther's Small Catechism) as storing up God's word "in our hearts."

The point of what he was saying was that it wasn't just a matter of stuffing words into our memories just to pass tests but instead it was a way of remembering what the One who loves us best has to say. That way, when the pressures and disappointments of life build, we'd have the Word to fall back on. It was a good practice, though I can't say I was ever very successful in passing on the practice to those I have mentored. I'm not sure why.

In any case, what we're learning as drivers is indeed something that is meant for more than just passing a test. It is a response of love toward all our neighbors -- toward all those who will be driving and walking and biking around our buses, and, of course, to those who will be putting their lives in our hands as passengers.

If you would like to pray for me and the other bus operator trainees, ask the Lord to give us the understanding that what we're learning isn't just to pass a requirement for employment, but it's so we can bless others and keep them as safe as we can.

Lord Jesus, I trust you. I trust that you will turn my attention away from "passing or failing" a test, but instead to bring everything into my heart, so I remember, even in the middle of the test, that doing well is a way of sharing love with all the neighbors that will be in and nearby our buses as we drive tomorrow -- and in the days to come.

At some point, tomorrow or after that, I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Good Push

Day 2 of behind the wheel MT instruction - done.

After an unnerving morning driving up to and around the New Hope area, we perfected our backing technique (offset, straight & alley dock) and headed to downtown Minneapolis. The man I'm training with and I took turns at the wheel on I94, across Nicollet Mall and down into the Leamington Transit Center - located under a parking ramp.

I'm very thankful for the instructors we've been working with. They push us so we grow in confidence and a "hyper awareness" of everything around us. After today's driving, in some traffic and through some tight spots, I'm thinking that maybe I will be able to do this Metro Transit driving job after all.

Of course, there are many more things to learn. Assuming we pass tests tests on Thursday and Friday, we'll have 2 more days of classroom instruction, on then on Wednesday of next week we'll drive (with an instructor) on routes, picking up passengers.

Our instructors push us to do well. They encourage us but then get tough when we make a mistake after they've given careful directions and we've practiced once or twice. The goal is to get us out there as public servants, transporting people safely.

All of us need a good push. We can do better in many ways. Let's encourage one another -- and let's let others challenge us. We can do a lot better than what we think.

Hebrews 10:24 "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds..."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Time for Rest

After this challenging day, driving Metro Transit bus for the first time (as a student driver with an instructor and without passengers) I got a phone call from someone who cares a lot for people who are in need. The person shared many concerns, but one practical need I'd like to mention here. If anyone has a full size mattress that you're not using, please let me know and I'll let you know who needs one. Many people don't want used mattresses, but there are some who would really appreciate them.

That's all I have to say for tonight. It took a long time for me to get to sleep last night so I'm hoping for a longer rest tonight. I am thankful for a good bed.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rambly and Thankful

It's the end of a good weekend. Toni and I feel positive about the progress that's been made in the process of getting our house ready for the big show and tell. We'll meet sometime this week with a realtor and get the house on the market. (If someone wants to see it before that happens let us know!)

On Saturday night Toni asked if it felt strange not be preparing for Sunday morning. It didn't feel strange to me because since mid April I haven't been the main speaker. I'm thankful for the time of transition that Crossroads provided with several different speakers.

See the "transitions" series on the Crossroads website... I'm not working on that site anymore but, at least for now that series and the previous series are available online. It will be Crossroads' choice about how they will continue to maintain or change that online presence. I'm available to help out if they want me but I'm not not leading anything there. I dropped off my key this weekend.

I'm not planning on backing off from friendships, however! Several friends (brothers in Christ!) from the Crossroads family have helped us with parts of our own transition since we "left" our roles in that particular body last week. I mentioned last Monday night that a friend made himself available to give me rides from Cokato to training and back. That friend is a part of the Crossroads family. Then today four other Crossroads brothers helped us move mattresses from the basement to the garage. And I've been talking in one way or another with some Crossroads sisters.

I'm praising God for the continuation of sweet relationships. As the song that Diann surprised us with at the end of worship on May 31, "the welcome will not end." That's good thing. (See "Forever Friends Can Be True.")

This morning we went to a neighboring town for worship. It was good to be in the presence of other brothers and sisters (and a few friends we've known for years) as we praised God and prayed together. Yesterday some friends (a brother and sister in the Lord) stopped by to see us from the Wisconsin town where we lived many years ago. Others we didn't see but we'll look forward to seeing them later. In addition to all that, I've been wondering who the Lord will lead me to relate to as brothers and sisters in Christ at Metro Transit. I'm praying about that now.

In Christ, friends and brothers and sisters are never subtracted. Addition goes on. Always. Amen! I hope my friends and brothers and sisters everywhere will always know they can call on me. The welcome will not end from this side either. You may need to leave a message if you call me, but I will call you back.

This is kind of a ramble-ly sort of writing, but it's just my way of saying how important friends are, and how I don't plan on letting them go. (I'm actually waiting for my clothes to dry so I can hang them up and get to bed! At MT I need to have clean clothes. Dress codes rule.)

Tomorrow morning I'll head in to MT's training center. If I take the bus I'll leave my sister's house between 5:30 and 5:45AM, walk to the bus stop, take a "Plymouth Metrolink" express bus at 6:07 to downtown and get a quick transfer. That will get me to my destination about 45 minutes early. I'll use that time to do some studying there before our on-the-road training begins at 7:30.

God's perfect peace to you all. Give me a call or connect with me however you want to. If we've known one another at any time, we're not strangers anymore.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

God's Route

I'm at my sister Lisa's home in Plymouth after a fourth day of Metro Transit bus operator training. The driving starts Monday -- with an instructor, another brother trainee and myself in an empty bus. Just driving the 40 foot long and very wide vehicle will be challenging enough, especially in the close and busy and unpredictable quarters of the city--and there is so much more than that to the job.

At some point I think we were told how many drivers Metro Transit has on the payroll. I'm pretty sure it was more than 2,000.* [On Friday I found out the number was more like 800... I don't know where I got the larger number from.] Some are part time and others full. We're learning what the differences are between the two -- it's not just the amount of hours. Part time operators work rush hours with a lot of trips between the suburbs and downtown. When a person moves to full time he or she works a lot of nights and weekends.

I rode buses yesterday and today -- yesterday to my daughter's in Roseville and today between my sister's home and the "Instruction Center" on 7th Street North in Minneapolis. As in the classroom we're learning about driving and customer service and fares and transfers I get such an appreciation for the drivers.

Tonight I took a look at the section of the book on routes, maps and schedules and I'm even more amazed. We'll study all that after our week of on-the-road practice. Our instructor says there's no point to learning all that until we pass the driving test, and I agree. I think of driving around those chaotic city streets and I go "yi yi yi." And then I pray. I will just take one day at a time.

Once again this evening, I need to pause, pray and believe that God, who led me to this new mission field will make it possible for me to do it. I take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone -- not alone spiritually and also not alone as a trainee operator. I look around at the other 7 guys who are in training and I think to myself, if they can do it, and if 800* other drivers can, so can I.

Toni and I read these verses late last night before going to bed:
  • "God says, 'Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.'" (Psalm 50:15)
  • "Cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
That verse from First Peter is from a section about "humbling oneself under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." And Psalm 50 also gives a warning to those who aren't willing to do that -- to those who will not listen to the Lord.

I have listened. And, after much listening, I believe God's hand as led me be a part of this training course. This is God's route for me at this point in my life. So I will continue to humble myself. I will continue to believe in God knows best. I will study, I will work... and I will rest and let Him take control.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Test of Faith

Yesterday was the first real day of training for me and the 7 other men (this group all happens to be male) who are aiming at being qualified as bus operators for Metro Transit. One of the sessions reminded me of the time back in 2010 when I was in a class preparing for my first (and only) parachute jump and the instructor spent time telling us about everything that could go wrong.

In the particular session I am thinking about that we went through yesterday, the lead instructor spoke to us about how strictly we were being watched during training and about what could happen to get us "disqualified" to drive. I won't go into the details in this public forum but it's enough to say that several kinds of "slip ups" could cause a man or woman to not be able to continue. It would be pretty easy to fail.

There are many "tests of faith" in our lives and this training process is certainly one of them. What does the Lord say to me now?
  • I think of verses that have to do with pushing on through in an athletic contest, running hard after the prize, doing all I can to avoid disqualification, remaining alert and careful... especially when we get out on the road. I think of First Corinthians 9:27 where Paul uses an example from his life, "hardening his body" as he says, and "bringing it under complete control so that he will not be disqualified." 
  • On the other hand, I think of verses that bring confidence, where the Lord says that he will complete the good work he has done in me.
So I will continue. I will work hard and do my very best. And I will trust that the One who called me is faithful and he will lead me through to being qualified to do the work that HE wants me to do. I will walk, and drive, in faith. Even if I end up someday in one of those 60 foot "artics," that is an articulated or "accordion" bus.

I write this hoping that when you, dear reader, face challenges and fears, that you will likewise believe that the Lord is capable of bringing you through, so you will not give up. Seek God's call and then step out in faith. Put fear aside and follow. You and I will experience God's hand of grace upon us as we do.

Time to go back to bed now. I just woke up for a few minutes to write this. Good night.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pastors are Not Drivers

A lot has gone on since yesterday morning when Jon & Dotty Zens were with us at Crossroads for Bible study and worship. Personally I officially moved from one occupation to another - having released the pastor role at Crossroads and now having taken up the position of "bus operator trainee" with Metro Transit.

The photo I posted here was taken after our day of orientation -- I got behind the wheel of a parked bus and asked a friend to take a picture with my phone. We've got lots of training ahead before I'm actually going anywhere with that machine. I'm not a driver yet.

As I looked at this picture tonight I was reminded of something Jon Zens was teaching us yesterday. During worship he shared with us from Ephesians 4:7 ("to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it...") and First Corinthians 12:14 where we are forcefully told that "the body is not made of one part..."

Jon didn't talk about bus drivers yesterday, but he could have, because, sadly, sometimes church-folk either think of themselves or are sometimes treated as "passengers" while someone else does the driving. But, as Jon said so clearly, if that were the case then the other parts of the body would be optional -- as long as they drop their fare (offering) in the box.

Everyone is equal in the body. Once we've been claimed by the Lord Jesus, there is no hierarchy. Each of us has an important role. None are just passengers. Together we are the active body of Christ. We have one driver - JESUS. None of us can sit in his seat.

That's what I remember from what Jon highlighted yesterday. We didn't use microphones so we don't have a recording. Maybe Jon will see this and let me know if I got it right.

Tomorrow at 6 AM a friend from Crossroads is coming by to pick me up and give me a ride in for training. In a physical vehicle, I don't mind being a passenger. But after the 5-6 weeks of training, and after I've been thoroughly tested, I'll drive passengers myself. I'll be more "in control" than I ever have been as a pastor... ultimately, though, I'll be depending on the Lord every minute to guide and help me keep everyone safe. Pray for all of us who are learning -- and for all those who are already on the road.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

God's Work of Pruning

Yesterday morning I received the following questions in an email from a ministry leader.

He says his "attention is being drawn to John 15:1-8 these days by the Lord" and continues:
"One of the things that I am meditating on these days is God's work of pruning..."
Here are the ministry leader's questions:
  1. What is it you think God needs to prune in our lives? What kinds of things?
  2. What God's work of pruning looks like for you? How do you experience God's work of pruning?
  3. What is, has been, the fruit of the Lord's work of pruning?
In these early morning hours my attention is drawn to the second of these questions. [One reason for that, I think, might be because Crossroads is hosting Jon & Dotty Zens today who work with small church fellowships - click here OR here for more about that. Come to Crossroads today if you can!]

After having served as a pastor for many years in more-or-less traditional church local church bodies, even serving in a church where about 350 people would gather on a typical Sunday morning, I'm now coming, today, to my "last Sunday" at Crossroads -- a church group where about 10% of that number have typically gathered in 2015.

I ask myself today, and wonder if this is the Lord's act of pruning or something else. I will continue to pray over this today -- and ask the Lord about other pruning work he desires to do -- and consider the question of fruit.

In the meantime - how have you, dear reader, experienced the Lord's pruning? If you'd like to share a response, you can comment below or go to my website where you can find my contact information.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Email Highlighting Tomorrow and more

The email below was sent to the Crossroads email list on Thursday of this week.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: June 7 at Crossroads
From: Crossroads Community Church
Date: Thu, June 04, 2015 12:24 pm

Good afternoon brothers and sisters!

I stated writing this at about 11:30 AM, right toward the end of Kristine Birkholz' office hours this week. Next week she'll be here from about 12 noon until about 2 PM. I, on the other hand, will be in training next week to drive Metro Transit bus. Please ask me and I'll be glad to share more about what's going on with Toni and I.

What a great day we shared last Sunday (May 31). For a PICTURE of our high school graduates taken then and a few thoughts on that see "Forever Friends Can Be True" at THIS LINK (written on my blog on Tuesday). Thank you for all your prayers and your love as we celebrated what I am calling "our graduation" from our current roles as worship leader and pastor at Crossroads. We will be with you this Sunday too, but not in as leaders

This coming Sunday, June 7, we're privileged to share 9:00 AM Bible Study and 10:15 worship together with Jon & Dotty Zens from Oscola, WI. More HERE.

Jon & Dotty will be sharing with us what it means to encourage a "relational community" centered in Christ.

Please come and share with us as you are able - this will be my last Sunday to gather with you for awhile - Toni and I will step back a bit after June 7 to allow for the transition to continue. (I informed the Crossroads board that this would be my "last Sunday" here as pastor).

For our worship time this coming Sunday we'll gather in a way that is inspired by a careful study of New Testament scriptures, including First Corinthians 11 and 14. With Jesus as our leader, we'll gather to share the Word of God and to eat and drink together (gluten free bread and juice will be provided).

Jon & Dotty Zens will come with 2 songs for us to share - we may share other songs too as they are suggested. Jon will lead a teaching - we will listen. Those who desire may ask questions or contribute any thoughts the Lord gives to them.

As a part of our gathering we will the share as the Lord commanded at his last supper with the disciples - “This is my body, which is for you, do this in remembrance of me.” and “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink, in remembrance of me.”

ALSO - - - PRAY FOR OUR CHURCH BOARD MEMBERS! They will meet on Monday, June 9. The board members include: John Buschel (President), Randy Moe, Bonita Garthus (Secretary), Mark Kuhlmann & Diann Mauk. Ron Olson and Norma Jean Cruz will serve another year on the board. Allan Sorenson will serve as immediate past president. Robin Begarowicz is treasurer pro tem. Kristine will be serving as "financial secretary" (Robin is helping her learn the computerized system of secure and confidential record keeping.)

Upcoming Sunday speakers:
June 14th:  Pastor Karl Kruse of “Prayer Watch International”
June 21st:  Gary Finken (has served local churches of various denominations)
June 28th:  To be determined
July 5th and etc.: To be determined
Pray that the Lord would guide Crossroads in the decision about guest speakers, an interim pastor, or other forms of church leadership. If you have ideas about this that you believe come form the Lord, please speak with any of our board members. They will be praying and making decisions about future leadership on Monday, June 9.

God's peace be with you all! Lots more, as usual, on our church website.

Steve Thorson

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Holy Spirit Joy and Generosity

Earlier this morning, at prayer, we were reading and praying over the first few verses of Second Corinthians 8. Writing about the Macedonian churches, Paul says "their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity." 

Toni and I have received many times because of other people's giving. We've even benefited by our own giving -- as our offerings are a part of what support my salary! Interesting, no? I am praying about how God will continue to direct us in giving in the weeks and months to come. I'm also praying right now for Andria Jasper and her need to receive support for her mission in Thailand.

Generosity is a clear sign of the Holy Spirit -- not just in individuals, but also in church bodies. Read the last quarter of Acts 2 if you doubt it. There is a flow of blessing, including material blessing, that binds the church together because of the Holy Spirit's ministry in and among us.

If you or I don't find joy in generosity, it's time to reconnect with God. The Holy Spirit leads people, and church bodies, to focus outward, on others, and not on maintaining security or building reserves. Generosity with Joy is a mark of faith.

If you are not experiencing joy in giving, ask someone to pray with you about it. Or maybe you need to be asking others to help you financially or in other ways. There are times it's best to receive.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Forever Friends Can Be True

Picture above posted to facebook on Sunday, May 31 and added here Thursday, June 4.

 Picture above received and posted Saturday, June 6.

At the end of our more-or-less formal time together on Sunday morning, before the potluck meal, someone came up and said there was one more thing to do. This was after we were sweetly prayed for and blessed with tears -- last Sunday was our last day of "leading worship" at Crossroads - click here for more about the day and a link to a recording -- and after Toni and her worship band had led what I thought was going to be the final song, Diann had Randy play this song:
Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can't believe the hopes He's granted
Means a chapter of your life is through

But we'll keep you close as always
It won't even seem you've gone
'Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them...
There's more to the song -- you can find it online by searching "Friends are Friends Forever," lyrics by Michael W. Smith. Years ago it was often played at graduations. Sunday was graduation of sorts for Toni and I as we move on to new adventures too.

Anyway, I was thinking about friends tonight as I drove back from my sister's home in Plymouth to Cokato. I had brought a second trailer load of bins and boxes there for storage. Among the boxes and bins are photo albums and old church directories. And mementos of friends who are not nearby now. We've been in 3 different towns since our kids were born, and lots of others before that. A part of our heart is in each, and with each loved one scattered here and there.

And now we're getting ready to move again. I know I will want to keep all the friends and acquaintances that we have known and loved here. I know myself and how I am, and I will keep them. And when we are connected with JESUS, His love, His forgiveness, His peace, His joy... all that... when we're connected in Jesus the welcome never ends.

I'm one of those who doesn't throw people away. I can back up when I need to, when folks back up from me in obvious ways I can stand back and wait. Even so, I'm always praying and hoping and doing what I can to make sure there is no need to stay apart. When there have been estrangements, there can be healing. I know, I've seen it happen and expect it to happen more and more.

Friends can be friends forever. Especially when we recognize and bow to Jesus as Lord. We love each other with His perfect love - love that does not give up.

As we read this morning at 6 AM prayer from First Corinthians 6, our hearts are open. Always. Sometimes others are closed, but if they are, we will wait. God does want us to stay as friends!