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??

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Two Things . . .

First of all, a picture sent to me by a fellow Athanasian at the recent Convention. This is the pastors helping with the distribution of the Sacrament in the opening service all lined up and waiting for the start of the processional. It's easy to pick me out - just look for the silver hair!


And then also a quote that (I believe) I heard during the convention: "The hardest thing in the world is the human heart."

Friday, July 26, 2019

Convention Day Last

The final gavel came down yesterday. Before that, a flurry of activity, trying to get as many resolutions passed as possible. Overall it was an interesting week. Some good, some not so good. Our District delegation debriefed yesterday and then out for one final dinner together. We went to the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City. It is a pretty famous place and the food was really good. Some pictures:


An inside view of the Columbia. We were sitting on the first floor at the far end of this picture.


The "Wine Bible" as they called it. They said they have over 60,000 different wines! (How can you even choose from a list like that!)


You can't really read this, but it a warrant (or something similar to that) from 1929 - prohibition! The restaurant was accused of selling intoxicants and ordered to stop "in the name of the President of the United States." Very cool old piece of history.

So now I am sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for my flight home. The line to check my bag was enormous! But sailed through security with pre-check. (Worth every penny!) Now I am sitting at a carousel in the gate area. Just like the ones the have in libraries - very nice. Can get a little work done before boarding. And then home. It will be good to be home. :-)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Convention Day 6

Wednesday was the last full day of the convention. So trying to get lots done. Finished up the elections, which took longer than hoped. A few surprises, but not too many. My Floor Committee finished up its work - our last time on the dais was in the morning. One resolution we knew would be contentious, but I was proud of the delegates who presented their concerns in a very churchly way. The same cannot be said about a resolution that came up in the afternoon concerning the now-closed Concordia College-Selma, AL. Lots of hurt feelings about that and it showed. There was lots of speaking - some relevant, some not. We did not finish with that - it's coming back up today, so we'll see how it goes. Maybe sleeping on it will improve things a little. A really good essayist today, Rev. Gottfried Martens. Go to the LCMS web page and look that one up - worth the listen.

So today is a half day, and then most people are rushing to the airport. Our district chose to stay an extra day, to have a debriefing and planning dinner meeting. On the one hand, that's nice, getting to avoid to rush to the airport and the crowds therein. On the other hand, it delays getting home by another day.

Yesterday was pretty rainy all day, and today is supposed to be the same. Not a big deal since we spend most of the day inside anyway. But have to walk from the hotel to the Convention Center, so getting a little wet. Hopefully I'll get there this morning before it really starts to rain. And hopefully we'll have a hiatus at lunch, too. I did see this walking to the Convention Center yesterday morning:


If you look closely, you can see the double rainbow.  :-)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Convention Day 5

Another busy day on Tuesday. They really pack the days full here, which they need to do to get everything done. (And even then they often don't get to everything.) My Floor Committee was on again yesterday, and it was interesting - one resolution we thought would produce some blow back didn't get even one speaker! The other we thought would got a boat load of people who wanted to speak, but after a bunch of discussion on a proposed amendment, the chair (the Synodical President) pushed it through without any more discussion. I was a bit surprised, a little disappointed, but I also understand his reasons for doing so. That's one of the difficult thing he has to do - figure out how to regulate the debate and keep things moving. You want to be fair but also keep things moving. You want to let people speak, but you also want meaningful comments (which sometimes are rare!). I have a new appreciation for how difficult that job is.

We (my Floor Committee) has one resolution coming to the floor today that could be tense. I say could because some progress has been made that might enable it to proceed more smoothly. We'll see what today brings. This one has been the source of a great deal of time, energy, and discussion that (IMHO) has perhaps revealed an issue in our synodical structure (hierarchy) that needs addressing. But who am I? I'll mention it to some folks, but that's another thing I learned here: for many (not all) folks, who you ARE is often more important than what you SAY.

Now, some more pictures . . .


Athanasian-Missionary John Wolf here to promote the work being done in Africa and Kenya. We had some nice conversations. Hopefully he and his family will be able to visit us next year. Bishop Omolo is also here, and I got to greet him only very briefly. Hopefully I'll see him a little more before we end tomorrow.


The altar used for all the services. This isn't the best picture - between sessions they dim the lights up front. But it really is quite beautiful. The picture in the middle is a lamb shedding its blood for us.


Last night for dinner we went to the home of one of our delegates who lives and has his church in Tampa. It was Pastor Luke Jacob's (pictured) wife's birthday yesterday, so he got her on the phone and we all sang Happy Birthday to her - that's what you see going on here.

After dinner, I crashed. I couldn't stay awake any longer. All the early mornings and late nights finally caught up to me. So I got a bit more sleep last night than I had since I arrived. :-)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Convention Day 4

I promised some pictures today, so . . .


This is Rev. Adam Koontz who is serving with me on a Floor Committee. This picture I took for my Dad, for Adam was in his church (St. Mark's, Ridley Park, PA) for a while when my Dad still lived there. He and Mom were quite fond of the Koontz's.


This is my view from the floor. I am seated a good ways back (assigned seats), but not all the way in the back. But as you can see with the jumbo TV screens, it really doesn't matter - you can see fine. It's actually probably easier on the neck!


My brother, who is also a delegate this year (which I think I said in earlier posts).


I was privileged to be invited to the Mill Neck Manor Deaf Ministry banquet last night. It was very nice. This picture is of Mrs. Grace Lam receiving the John of Beverly award for her work with the deaf in Macau.

So yesterday, convention-wise, we elected VPs and the Synod's Board of Directors. No surprises, really. And after this election, it became crystal clear who has the delegates and who does not, and so it is easy to predict how the rest of the elections will turn out. There may be a few exceptions or surprises, but its pretty clear how things are going.

My Floor Committee met again yesterday morning. We still had to discuss one sticky resolution and how to handle it. No one (and I do mean no one!) was absolutely certain what to do with it. The only thing that was certain was the desire not to set a precedent for future conventions by whatever we did. So, a way forward was chosen that might be palatable to all and achieve many purposes. We'll see how it turns out! (I know, is that vague enough? But I really shouldn't say more than that.)

Lots more elections today - we'll finish all the elections today, actually. And there should be some fun resolutions coming - we haven't really had the fun ones yet, IMHO. The only thing that has disappointed me so far is how quickly we sometimes stop debate - and whenever that motion is made, be it from the floor or the chair, it is ALWAYS passed. I understand the need to not get too bogged down and that we have limited time to get through everything, but still, there are people who wish to speak and times when I wished to have heard more. Maybe if time is a problem, reduce the maximum time allowed to speak from 2 minutes down to 1.5 or 1 minutes. Talk fast if you need!

I must also say that I've been busier than expected. I didn't really think about it much ahead of time, but did expect a bit more down time than I've had. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Convention Days 2-3

So what's the convention been like so far?

Tiring. Interesting. Tedious. Joyful. (I better put that in - it's the theme of the convention!) Busy. Frustrating. Satisfying. All of this.

I'm sorry I don't have pictures to post. I'll try to get some today. When the convention meets, we meet for long stretches with no breaks. When the breaks come, there are lots of people to talk to and lots to talk about.

The opening Divine Service (Saturday night) was well done, except for the sound system. Something horrid happened to that and most of the assembly couldn't understand what was being said until the sermon - and some even after that. They got it mostly fixed, and its been fine for all the business, but its too bad it had to be that way for the opening service. I was privileged to be asked to help distribute the Sacrament. My station was one of the farthest away - but I managed to get back to it without spilling the Blood of Christ! (Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip . . . :-)

The delegate orientation was a bit tedious. But I guess they have to be super clear and go super slow to make sure everyone is at ease.

I mentioned in my last post that my Floor Committee was going to have our open hearing time on Saturday morning, but it wasn't expected to be too busy. We were wrong. There were many people who came and spoke, and we are still working on an issue or two! This morning we will meet again and hopefully resolve (pardon the pun!) some issues. We're on at 11:05 (the first of our three presentation times), so we need to be ready by then.

Elections took place yesterday for the Vice Presidents - nothing unexpected really. The incumbents who ran were re-elected. The two spots open because of men stepping down were filled as I expected. The ranking of the VPs also was pretty much the same.

We did pass a bunch of resolutions. It is interesting to note what is a sticking point to those who speak which is not for me (and, I suppose, vice versa). Knowing what I know now about how Floor Committees work, I know that 95% of the comments on the floor were probably already discussed by the committee and a decision made about them. But the convention as a whole gets voice, too.

I've been able to spend some good time with my brother, who is a delegate also. We've had a lunch (sort of) and a dinner together. Good to catch up. This morning and tomorrow morning, we'll also have breakfast together (thus achieving the coveted meal trifecta!) as the LCEF VP for both of the non-geographic districts hosts for us.

Anything else? Well, it's been stormy, but so far I haven't gotten caught out in the rain. I also haven't had time to walk through the vendor exhibits and get some freebies. Well, that's exactly true. I've had some time, but caught up in conversation instead.

So today, more elections. As I said, my Floor Committee will be up this morning. We'll be meeting also this morning right after the opening Matins. So, more news tomorrow!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Convention Day 1

Travel day to Tampa today (Friday), plus meeting with the Floor Committee to consider the feedback we received to our resolutions. The travel was smooth, and met in the afternoon for approx. 2.5 hours. But we didn't change any resolutions because of the feedback. This morning (Saturday) are the open hearings for the Floor Committees, where folks can come and speak to the group in person. Our chair doesn't expect there to be too many. We'll see.

The bad part of yesterday was not getting lunch. But kept busy, so didn't feel too hungry. The hotel we're at is very nice, and I have a vey nice view out my window. :-)  So, a few pictures for you:


Nice sunrise driving to the airport.


Cool clouds Ubering from the airport to the hotel.


A storm rolled in while we were eating dinner. Fortunately, we were able to finish and get back to the hotel before the deluge. You could tell right when it was about to hit and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees in a moment! Like a wall of cold air coming in. And then there was quite a show we got to see out our hotel window! 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

I am the Lord

I've been thinking about that phrase this week, appearing as it does multiple times in the Old Testament reading from Leviticus that will be read on Sunday. I am the Lord. How do you hear those words?

I am the Lord = I am sovereign, almighty, so do as I say!

or

I am the Lord = I am the one who brought you out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and am leading you to the promised land.

Big difference there! Law and Gospel. And I think mostly we hear those words the first way, rather than the second. But I think they mean the second.

So that's in the sermon for Sunday. Make sure you come and listen! :-) Or if you cannot, listen later online here or here.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Higher Things, Days 4-5

The last day of the conference each year doesn't have much going on . . . breakfast, Matins, final plenary, lunch, closing Divine Service. In between, packing and check-out. The second plenary speaker (who did the 3rd and 4th plenaries) was good. I really liked how he thought and presented things, his examples and explanations . . . it's just, well, he was like trying to get a drink from a fire hose! I cannot think of how he could have packed anything more into each hour session he had! So it was a little hard to absorb. But good. Really good stuff.

The closing Divine Service is always a highlight, with the choir and orchestra and lots and lots of good music. Really good closing sermon, too. Then off to the train station for us.


Shot of Chicago as our Uber driver approaches Union Station.


The Gold Cup final (soccer, for you non-soccer fans) is in Chicago on Sunday, so they had a big display in Union Station. Here's a giant mock up of the trophy.


And this is the actual trophy itself. (And yes, there were ropes around it and a guard so you couldn't get too close to it.)


The train ride home was uneventful. I was pretty wiped out from two long weeks, so after eating dinner, I pretty much passed out! Got to enjoy the morning, though, watching scenery go by. This picture is back at Union Station, DC. So all-in-all, a good week. :-)

Next year, will travel to either Knoxville, TN or Grand Rapids, MI for "Watermarked."

Friday, July 5, 2019

Higher Things Day 3

I must say, the weather here has been great for the last two days. The first day was all hot, humid, and rainy, and we got worried the whole week was going to be like that. But we needn't have worried! The last two days have been glorious! This campus is also pretty small, so not a ton of walking, like at some of our others.

I taught my second breakout session yesterday afternoon. Meh. Not my best. I received some good feedback, though, so that's good. It's been a great week getting to hang out and have fun with my daughter. And I get two more days to do it! ;-)

And couple more pictures  . . .


"Higher Things nectar."  :-)


Looking for fireworks in the sky.


Trivia game show. This one was a lot of fun, though it was hard to understand the questions he was asking - he talked really fast and the microphone and speakers weren't the best.

So today we have the final Matins and plenary in the morning, and then the closing Divine Service after lunch. Then it's back on an Uber to Union Station and the train ride home.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Higher Things Day 2

Day 2 is our first full day at Higher Things. Matins, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Second plenary session. 3 Breakout sessions. Eating - lots of eating! And free time. All in all a pretty good day.


Today was "wear your conference t-shirt day." So lots of blue!

Today I also taught the first of my two breakout sessions. It went okay. A little rough, which the first time always is. I'll be on again this afternoon, and hopefully some of the rough edges will be smoothed out. The good news was no rain today!

The food has been so-so. Some of the other colleges we've been to, the food has been really good. This is back to college food as you know it. It's been fine, but nothing to write home about.

I also usually post pictures of pastor friends I get to see again while here, so here's your rogues gallery for this year!


This is a new friend, Peter Burfiend. He was Athanasian Neely Owen's fieldwork supervisor his first two years at seminary.


A classmate from yesteryear (and more "yester" than either of us want to admit!).


Pastor Houser from Nebraska.


Pastor Ill. Was a vicar in my circuit back in the day. All around good guy.


Pastor and missionary David Bush. He taught me sign language at the seminary and was one of my fieldwork supervisors as I worked under him at the deaf congregation in Ft. Wayne.


Curate Dreyer. He just turns up everywhere!

The conference is halfway done. Today is the last full day. People start to get tired, and a little wackier . . .

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Higher Things Days 0-1

Day 0? Well, that's the travel day. :-) This year, it's just my daughter and I traveling to Chicago. (We have a couple other youth from the congregation going to the conference in Wisconsin.) So, we decided to take the train instead of driving. About the same time, but much more relaxing.


On the train, Union Station, DC.


Off the train, Union Station, Chicago!

It rained quite a bit our first day here, but we somehow managed to be in the right place and the right time and stay mostly dry.

Day 1 at the conference is the Opening Divine Service, followed by the first plenary presentation, dinner, Evening Prayer, first Breakout session, then free time. We had a late lunch, so not too hungry for dinner. And for the first time in a while, I was NOT assigned to teach during the first Breakout session! I almost always get that slot. But this year, I'm not on until Wednesday night, and then again on Thursday afternoon.

So, some pics from our day . . .


In the chapel.



Free time!


This is one of the new free time activities this year - escape rooms! They will have new ones each night, so maybe we'll do it again. We got put together with some other folks, and yes, managed to escape. It actually wasn't too hard - there were some smart folks on our team! But we did contribute, too.