The Pastor Challenge


The Pastor Challenge

The Assist Pregnancy Center's Walk-Run-Ride for Life is coming up in May and this year I am challenging myself in order to challenge all of you! I am challenging myself to ride a "Metric Century" (100 kilometers) in four hours, and if I can ride farther than I ever have at one time before, I challenge all of you to support me more than ever before. I set my goal this year at $5,000, and our team (Lutherans for Life) at $7,500! If I can do it, you can do it. Assist helps so many mothers and babies, and they are expanding their facility to help even more - and so need our help more than ever, especially coming out of this pandemic. So please help! CLICK HERE to go to my sponsor page to sponsor me, or you can sponsor anyone else who joins the team, or the team as a whole.

Will you step up to the challenge??

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Christmas Gift

You were in church last night. I was so overjoyed to see you. It had been so long. I’d been thinking about you and hoping to see you. And then I did, and my heart leapt for joy. 

Some people criticize those who come to church only on Christmas and Easter. I do not criticize you. Do I wish to see you more often? Yes. I want to see you every week. But that does not lessen my joy that you were there last night. I hope you felt my joy in you.

Last night we rejoiced in the gift of a Saviour. But I received another Christmas gift last night: you. Thank you for coming.

And if you’re reading this and didn’t come last night, I missed you. And I pray that you are my gift next Christmas. Or maybe sooner than that . . .


Your Good Shepherd and His unworthy undershepherd




Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Good Words

You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

                                                           ~ Isaiah 41:9b-10

Monday, December 18, 2017

Does God Answer Prayer?

What a question for a pastor to ask! Does God answer prayer? Of course the answer is yes. He has said so in His word. That settles it.

So . . . why this blog post?

Well, because I included some prayers in the Thanksgiving sermon I preached this year. [Click here to read that sermon - the prayers are the second half.] After I did, I had a parishioner say to me: "I wouldn't pray those prayers!" Well, God seems to be answering those prayers. I've been struggling a bit of late. Things too big for me, humbling me. Sadness, anxiety. God seems to be answering my prayers to strength my faith and work me in. It's been tough. But I know it is also good.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What Your Pastor Wants for Christmas

Note: Some of the things below are true in my situation, but some are not; some are from things brother pastors have told me and that I know they are going through.

Do you know the story of the man who has been working so much and has spent little time at home? One night he brings home flowers for his wife. She appreciates the gesture. They're nice. But it's not really what she wants. What does she want? She wants him. For him to be there for her. To spend time with her.

Well, do you know what your Pastor wants for Christmas? You.

Cash, gifts, cards, they're nice. They are appreciated. But what he really wants is you.

For you to come to the Bible class he has prepared. (Not interested in the topic? Tell him what you are interested in!)

For you to come to church every Sunday (did you know he writes a different sermon every week?), or to the midweek service, especially if it is online and you don't have to go out - just log on with your computer! Or maybe leave work a little early once in a while to come?

For you to forgive him when he is having a bad day. Did you know pastors have bad days, too? And pastors mess up - maybe more than you know.

For you to bring a friend to church.

For you to be a friend. Pastors get discouraged sometimes. They get an awfully lot of bad news and bears the sorrows, griefs, and struggles of a whole lot of people. That can be a really heavy load, in addition to their own guilt and struggles and worries.

For you to pray for him. A lot.

For you to read what he writes. It takes time, effort, and care to compose things for you. But if you don't care enough to read them . . .

For you to hug him once in a while. You might be surprised what that little gesture might mean.

And maybe you already do all of the above for your pastor. If so, THANK YOU! It means more to your pastor than you know.

But now, if you've read this far, I ask you: What do you from your pastor for Christmas? I know not many people read my little blog, but if you would, add a comment on what you want. (Be anonymous if you want.) I have some thoughts - maybe I'll share them another time. I'd rather hear from you right now. What do you want from your pastor for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What Advent Is All About

The season of Advent is usually the time we also receive Christmas cards - although not as many any more. Just as email has replaced snail mail, so too has Facebook (though I'm not on it) replaced the Christmas letters that come in Christmas cards as the preferred method of updating folks on what's happened this past year. But we still get some and yesterday we received the card that is almost
always the first one each year, from some friends in Philadelphia. Opening the card and the letter, I immediately remarked to Laurie that the letter was shorter than usual. Well, turns out that was because it was all this now widow could manage to write as she told us of her husband's stroke and then death two days later . . . just one month ago. Sadness. I had even thought to myself last week that something must be wrong since we hadn't received their card yet!

Christmas letters have often been called brag letters, telling folks how great the kids are and all the accomplishments of the year. But a sad Christmas letter in Advent . . . well, it seems to me, that's what Advent is all about. Jesus coming for us. To save us from sin and the wages of sin, death. So a letter like this . . . it's why we celebrate Christmas. And it's the greatest gift this grieving widow will receive this year - the gift of knowing that her dear husband is celebrating this Christmas with Christ. And knowing that she will, too, someday. With him again.

So yeah, letters like this - this is what Advent is all about.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Don't Let Christmas Ruin Your Advent

This is one of my favorite phrases that I have coined (at least I don't recall hearing it from anyone else!): Don't let Christmas ruin your Advent.

I like that because most people tend to think the other way around - that the Church, with the season of Advent and its focus on repentance and holding off singing Christmas hymns until Christmas, ruins the Christmas season. Its a giant downer when the rest of the world is merry and bright.

But perhaps there's another way to look at it . . . That if we let the merry and bright of the world's Christmas overshadow Advent and make us miss out on it, that we are missing out on something beautiful in its own right. For Advent is a beautiful season. A season of yes, repentance, but also of waiting and rejoicing in the gifts of God, especially the gift of His Son who came, is coming, and will come again.

And then there's this, too: this holiday season with all its demands can make the month of December a quite busy, hectic, and difficult time - a time people just try to get "done." But Advent helps us stop and rest and take a breather in the midst of it all; a time to hear the Word of God speak to us in the midst of busy life; a time to pray and focus on more than just merry and bright. So that when Christmas does come, our joy is not ending but just beginning!

So don't let Christmas ruin your Advent. Enjoy Advent and Christmas both this year. :-)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving

A couple of pictures . . .


With my Dad earlier in the day.


Around our table just before we dug in.

And if you're interested, a link to the sermon I preached for Thanksgiving Eve.

Hope you are yours had as nice a day as we did!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tired. Sore. Done!

This was my project that I completed yesterday:


I've been trying to improve the drainage around our house. Many of the downspouts simply go into the ground and I never knew where they came out! One day, I found one that didn't - it just dead-ended into dirt! So I fixed that one. Then I checked out this one and found it going into a "T," which I realized is the output of the sump pump, which I never knew where it actually went. (Was glad to find it!) Sadly, though, when I dug a little more, I found this section of pipe severely compromised. Some by roots (the culprits of which I dug up), but also but careless contractors who had crushed sections with their spades when they were digging. Argh! The section below the picture also has a spade intrusion into it, but I wasn't going to go digging that far, and the water seemed to flow okay past it. I think there may also be one farther up the line, but chose to leave that one as well for now. Hopefully, this will do the trick and all the water will happily flow away from our house. :-)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Retraction

mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

I apologize. I was wrong.

I wrote a rather snarky post yesterday about a news article on the doors at the new Museum of the Bible. The journalist wrote that they were "the first 80 lines of Genesis written in Latin in reverse," which I thought was an absurd thing to say. I thought a better explanation was that they were probably Hebrew, the original language of Genesis, which does read "in reverse," or right-to-left.

But they ARE, in fact, Latin written in reverse. They are supposed to be replicas of the printing plates  of the Gutenberg Bible.

So it turns out I am the stupid one.
I am the one who should have spent a little more time checking.
I am the one indicted.

I have deleted my snarky post and herewith take my shame. Hopefully I have learned something and will do better in the future.

And my apology to that journalist.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An Open Letter to My Brother Pastors

Dear Brother Pastors,


I heard some stories again this week of pastors being (overly) critical of their brother pastors. I am sure that I have fallen into this as well, and for when I have, I ask your forgiveness.

I am kinda dense, so it has taken me a while to learn this, but brothers, we need each other! It's not easy being a pastor. You have demands, struggles, failures, get pulled in all different directions, and more, and who else can understand that best but your brothers in the office? We should be able to count on each other when we struggle - not have the added burden of worrying about what will my brothers think of me or say to me! And those critical words you spoke to your brother the other day? You might think them justified or not so bad, but they might have hurt worse than you imagine. 

I know we have disagreement about theology and practice. Those are important and I don't think we should minimize them. But why can't I love and support my brother that I have disagreements with? Why can't I help him through a rough patch? Why can't I be there for him when no one else will? I can. I need to. He needs me. I need him. And you know what? Maybe, just maybe, that kind of support will enable us to talk about the other stuff better.

So please, I plead: be there for your brothers in the office. Support them in their struggles, absolve them when their failures are weighing heavy on them, sympathize with them, be a friend. We can't afford not to, brothers. 

Please.


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Day Before . . .

Our congregation is having a joint Divine Service with Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria this coming Sunday, so I do not believe I will be preaching. Nevertheless, I had some thoughts about this Sunday's pericope, the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). What do you think?

What do you think the three servants were doing the day before the master called them and gave them those talents? Going about their business, doing their work, all the regular things of life, right?

But the master interrupted all that with His gift. A divine interruption of their lives. Were the servants glad to be so interrupted? I don't know about you, but I usually don't like interruptions!

Well, the first two servants did what the master had gifted them to do. Didn't they have to stop what they were doing before, their regular life and work, to do something new and different? But, apparently, they saw the gift as an opportunity, and when the master returned, were glad to tell him the new things that they had done.

It was the third servant who did not want to be interrupted - and he let the master know it! He did not see what he had been given as a gift, but as a burden and an obligation. So he didn't do what his master had gifted him to do, but continued doing the old.

What is God gifting you with? How is He interrupting your life with something new and different, in order to bless you? Maybe it doesn't seem like a gift but more like an obligation. Are you resisting? Are you missing out on blessing because you aren't receiving what He's giving as a gift and with joy?

I think there's some good preaching stuff here. Maybe I'll get to use this in three years when the reading comes back again . . .

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

More Tuesday Morning Coffee . . .

Well, it's been a while again. So what's been going on?

Well, our big news, I guess, is that my son got a job! He is in his senior year at Western New England University in Springfield, MA and so beginning the whole applying and interviewing process. Last week he had an interview at BAE Systems in nearby Manassas, VA. So he took the train down on Monday, had his interview on Tuesday, and took the train back to school on Wednesday. He said the interview went well and they really liked his experience both in and out of the classroom. Well, by the end of the week, he got the job! So now he can relax and enjoy his senior year without having to worry about a job after he graduates. And we get the bonus of having him close by - at least for a few years. We'll see where his career takes him after that.

Before getting that job, my son asked us if we were interested in selling him our Honda Civic - he would need a car to go on his job interviews. Well, we weren't in the car market and I really like my Civic, but as we thought about it, it made sense. He needs a car and was willing to pay more than what we would get trading it in. We could sell it to him for less than what he could buy a similar car for in the market. And we had some money saved . . . so we went ahead and got a new car - a 2017 Toyota Corolla. We have a Toyota minivan and really like it. It's been pretty dependable. And we got a good deal on a 2017 closeout. So now we have a new car and my son has a car to go on job interviews he doesn't need to go on anymore! :-)

The third thing is that my father took a rather large step down the last few days. He is noticeably weaker and spends less time awake and alert. It happened rather suddenly. I guess that's the way things go at his age. So we're keeping a little closer eye on him now. To the right is the latest picture I have of us together. He's been doing pretty well of late - I guess he's just starting to wear out. He's having trouble even getting through a whole devotion with us now.

Finally, I have a question for anyone who has read this far: When Luther wrote in his hymn A Mighty Fortress "one little word can fell him," what is that one little word? I have heard a number of suggestions from a number of people: Jesus, Christ, grace, forgiveness, tetelestai (Greek for "it is finished"), gegraptai (Greek for "it is written"), just to name a few. As far as I know, Luther never specified in his writings what that word was for him. What do you think? What do you think it is? :-)

Have a great Tuesday - officially the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation today!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday Morning Coffee

Just some thoughts on a Tuesday morning . . .

My wife and I are transitioning to using an electronic calendar for all of our stuff. I have been resisting and using my paper one, but it is getting harder and harder to coordinate her stuff, my stuff, and family stuff that way without one central calendar that I can access wherever I am. So, we're moving. It'll take some getting used to, but I know will be beneficial in the long run.

Preaching. I was privileged to preach at my District's Professional Church Workers Conference last week. Know what I noticed? How much easier it is to preach in a church, from a pulpit, than preaching in the house church that we are forced to use at the moment, due to our building still being under repair. I have found it quite challenging preaching in that environment. I can't quite put my finger on why, but it was just so much easier in the church.

And speaking of our church, no, repairs still haven't begun. The contractor is still talking with (haggling?) the insurance company(ies). Hopefully soon. I am getting very worried now about mold in the building, and that even when repairs to the roof are made, that will only be the beginning of the problems.

I also think I understand why District Presidents tend to be full time and not also serving as pastors - it's not the time it takes so much as the emotional toll. A pastor hurts for his people, and a District President hurts for his pastors and congregations. I experience some of this as a Circuit Visitor. It's not easy. You can insulate yourself to a degree, but its still tough to bring bad news to a congregation, or to work with a pastor who is hurting.

My wife - what would I do without her? Without her forgiveness, understanding, unwavering support, encouragement, management, care, and wisdom? I don't even want to think about it. :-)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Proud Dad

Here is the program from my daughter's symphony concert last night. Notice the list of Violin 1 players, and look at who is at the top of the list! A first semester sophomore as concertmistress. Pretty awesome. #ProudDad





Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Labor Day

Well, it's been a long hiatus from blogging. Some of that was vacation, some busyness, some lack of incentive to post anything. I'm going to try to catch up.

First up, here's what I did on my Labor Day holiday:


I labored! :-)  We have a bunch of these large, overgrown, part dead, part rotten, all ugly bushes behind our house, next to our deck. Wanting to do something with our deck, we figured the first step is getting rid of these monstrosities. Without them, the whole backyard opens up and is much nicer. But what a lot of work! So many branches so densely grown together. I got the first three out - the first two were the biggest and toughest. There are three left - we may leave the last one, not sure yet. But also have to think about the stumps now. I'll try to dig them out, but if that's too hard, we'll just saw them off down below dirt level. Then we're thinking of putting a raised garden there. Anyway, that was my Labor Day!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

More Post-Storm Pictures

Just got back from the church. Here are some more pictures of the tree which fell upon our little church . . .


View from the east side of the building, the top of the tree over the roof.


View from the west side, the main trunk of the tree.


View from the neighbor's yard. A pretty big tree! Probably fortunate it didn't go farther into the church and cause more damage.


Red tagged building.  :-(

Storm Damage


Last night during the storms that blew through our area a tree came down onto the church building that we rent for use. So the building will be unusable for a time. Hopefully we will be able to get in today and move what we need out of our closet there. Please keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Special Guest

Athanasian (can't say "former Athanasian" because "once an Athanasian, always an Athanasian!") and missionary Chris Yang and his family are in town on furlough from their work in Asia and visiting friends and supporters. He will be at Saint Athanasius to preach this Sunday and present what he is doing to the congregation afterward.

Yesterday, however, he made the time to visit my father. My father supported Chris through Seminary and corresponded quite often with the family, even after they left the Seminary. When they arrived, it was great to see his face light up - he knew them right away. We had a great visit. Here's a picture . . .






Monday, July 17, 2017

One BIG Weekend!

This weekend we got one of our seminarians both ordained and married! Not sure I would advise that for others, but it made for both a busy and joyous weekend. Some pictures . . .


Me and my former seminarian!


A good group of pastors present. A great big THANKS! to Pastor Esget and the folks of Immanuel for allowing us to use their church for this day.


The happy couple with the pastors who participated in the service.

So as I said after the service . . . I have now catechized, baptized, ordained, and married George. There's only one thing left! Let's hope I do not have to do that one.  :-)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Rest in Peace, My Friend

I was going to post this a few weeks ago, but life got busy . . .


About a month ago, a good friend of mine, Bill Hecht, was suddenly taken from us and called home to be with his Saviour. This is a picture of us from 2003, when I received my STM and he received the Miles Christi award from Concordia Theological Seminary. How great that we could receive these together.

As soon as I arrived in Virginia, Bill befriended me and took me under his wing. He was always a good friend, would go out of his way to do anything I asked if I had a problem or need, and was always encouraging and supportive. He invited my wife and I to several happenings on Capitol Hill - where I usually remember looking around at all the dignitaries there and thinking, "I don't belong here!" 

Bill was a pastor for several years before going into politics, but continued to pastor our congressmen in Washington whenever he had the chance. He would not only talk politics, but religion with them, and tell them of his Saviour. He was a true gift to me, my church, our synod, and to so many. He will be greatly missed. But thank you, Lord, for giving him to us as long as you did.

Bill wrote a book which was published a couple of years ago. I learned a lot from it. In it, you can not only find out more about him and his life, but the threats facing our country today. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so.




Saturday, July 8, 2017

Higher Things - Day Last

The last day of Higher Things is always a bit easier - breakfast, Matins, the last plenary session, lunch, packing and loading up, and the closing Divine Service. There's a bit more time to sit and talk to folks after lunch and bid farewell before everyone scatters. This year, our gathering was on the small side since the chapel could only seat 300 - so that was the maximum. The nice thing about that is that you get to know more of the people. So, the scattering was to 20 states - from South Dakota to Florida to Texas to New England.

Some pictures from after the closing Divine Service . . .


Our new friend and catechumen Jenna, a friend of our young ladies, who joined our group from Georgia. I do believe she's hooked and will be back with us next year!


Our row in chapel.


Old friend #1, Pastor Olson.


Old friend #2, Pastor Drosendahl.

Then on the way home, we stop for dinner. Last year the place we picked didn't turn out so good . . . so we played it safe this year: Cracker Barrel!


Even if you tried really hard, do you think you could wind up with 10 pegs left and no more moves? Someone did . . . !  :-)


Foooood!


Fried Alex. All fried, all the time.


That just looks good!


Mawmawmawmawmaw.

Then got everyone home safe and sound. Some on one side of midnight, some of us on the other. Next year, the closest conference will be in Southern Illinois! So we'll have to decide if we want to make a long drive or see if we can raise enough money to fly to one of the four. But for learning, fun, spiritual feeding, and unity, you just can't beat Higher Things.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Higher Things - Day 3

Many good things today. The youth are having fun and learning a lot - including lots of good discussions during meal times. All the services continue to be a highlight, and other things the will go unmentioned but that warm a pastor's heart. :-)  Makes these worth all the effort! And good for me is getting to spend time not only sitting in the services and being fed, but sitting there with my youth and especially my daughter. You know, pastors don't get to sit with their family in church very often! Nice.

So our great "gangsta" social media post from yesterday didn't get selected. Sigh. But undaunted, we try again . . .


Caption: Miss Ostapowich's Home for Peculiar Children
(If you miss the movie reference there, check the Google.
And Miss Ostapowich is the Conference Executive for Higher Things.)

That's got to win, right?

Other photo opportunities as well . . .


Are these the same girls in the group photo above? What happened?

And remember the "Giant Jenga" game I mentioned yesterday? Some more pictures of that  . . .


Maybe if Pastor yells at it . . .


Noooooooooo! You didn't just do that!
How is this thing staying up?

And then there's this picture . . .


Um, no. This is wrong.

And yes, there was free time . . .


There were always many different evening free time activities - some more strenuous than others. But all fun.

So today is the last plenary, then lunch, Closing Divine Service, and the drive home, arriving laaate. I'll try to take some more pictures today. But as usual, a very good week. :-)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Higher Things - Day 2

I started yesterday by talking about how long our drive here was. Well, there's few groups here from South Dakota who drove 30 hours to be here! Yowzers. Impressive. I met one of the young men from that group, Morgan, who just graduated high school and is thinking about seminary in the future. Good guy. 



How about a group picture?


If you don't like that one, how about this one?


Um . . . well . . . we're hoping for the best social media post of the day. I think we have a pretty good one thought up for today as well!

Overall a good day. Everyone I talked to enjoyed their breakaway sessions, and of course, all the services. Just something about singing good solid liturgy and hymns in a chapel packed with youth all singing heartily. :-)

I taught my second session already, so I am d-o-n-e! Get to kick back now. Actually was doing that before. This trip is busy, but a nice break from the usual routine and other kinds of busyness. But I digress . . .

How about the food? Not bad. Other places we've been to have been better. More limited choices here. But good conversation and fun around the table - some serious questions and discussion, too.


Last night during free time, Sarah and I played the most epic giant Jenga game of all time. It just wouldn't end. The picture below doesn't do it justice - we went many more rounds after this picture.


 I finally had to lose on purpose so I could get to the talent show, to support our own . . .


Miss Fields, who sang awesomely! There were some other really good talents as well, and some not so good, too. They'll announce winners today, but she gets my vote!

Met another old friend - former vicar in the circuit, Pastor Neugebauer, from South Dakota.


And just a few more random pictures for your viewing enjoyment!



(Don't worry! No old pastors were injured in the taking of this picture.)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Higher Things - Day 1

I have so many things to blog about, but things have been so busy I haven't gotten to it. Soon. But anyway, here in North Carolina at Higher Things and will try to post each day, as I have other years. Though I didn't take too many pictures yet . . .

This is how the day started:


We left at 5 am to get down to Mars Hill University in time. But a little later:


We got there in time. The first thing to notice is that the campus is much smaller than last year (Vanderbilt) and so we won't have to do anywhere near as much walking! Also, its probably about 20 degrees cooler here in the mountains of NC - so a lot better that way too.

The chapel here is nice but rather small, so this conference had a max of 300. We either met it or got rather close because the chapel was full. That's good for singing. Dr. Fickenscher from the Ft. Wayne Seminary is the first of our two plenary speakers, and guess who made it onto the stage during his first session?


Yes, our own Miss Juliana was part of the "human timeline" Dr. Fickenscher put together to talk about where the Reformation fit into history.

The first Breakaway sessions were after dinner and Evening Prayer, and I had one of these first slots. It's tough at the end of a long day, but it went pretty well. I had better than expected attendance - filled the room they put me in. My topic this year is: Should Christianity Be Legal? to get the kids thinking not only about threats to Christianity in our world today but how we think about ourselves as Christians, learning some lessons from history. I'm up again today in the second afternoon session, right before dinner.

We also got to see some fireworks last night - I love fireworks! A good cap to the day. I took a short video of the finale, but think I accidentally deleted it on my phone. :-(  Yes, technology bites me in the butt again.

Well, off to shower now . . .