Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ballroom Dancing Lessons

Erin and I have talked about it for years but we've finally started going to some ballroom dancing lessons. Erin's school brought in a ballroom dancing instructor. So, it's Erin and I and a bunch of elementary students. We learned some steps for the swing, the fox-trot and the Rumba.
I'm not much of a dancer. In fact, I stepped on Erin's toes (she had on sandals) so hard I made her toe bleed under the toenail. But the instructor said the woman needs to be in the right position and it's her fault if she gets stepped on. Erin said what I did was an exception.

Should I try out for the Gardner Community Theatre?

I just so happened to find a flyer in the shopping cart at Wal-Mart announcing try-outs for the Music Man with the Gardner Community Theatre. Try-outs are Saturday and Sunday, the performances are July 25th-27th. I'd really enjoy this. I haven't been a part of a musical performance (other than some lame voice recitals in college) since High School. It would be a lot of fun and it would be a great way to be in the community.
Anyone can make the chorus, but I'm considering trying out for a minor singing part. I'd have to sing a 15 second selection of music and I have no idea what I'd do. So, I'm not sure whether I should go for a part or not.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My weekend at my home church

At Pastor' Retreat, our District Superintendent told me, "it's good for you to be away; important for you but even more important for your people." Even though it's hard to be gone for the weekend, being gone is a great reminder that the church isn't about me. I kept reminding myself of that when missing TF but I'm glad I was able to be away for the weekend. I worshipped at preached at my home church in Burlington, IA.

It was a great weekend, here are the three main highlights:

I was a part of the dedication of my niece
My sister was able to work it out that Dani was dedicated this weekend, which was a great experience. Although Pastor Terry was willing to let me perform the ceremony, I was adamant that I was only up there as "brother," not as "pastor." A dedication is more about the church family than the biological family. It takes a community of believers to raise a child to know Jesus.

I had the opportunity to preach
I don't get the opportunity often anymore (for obvious reasons) but I relish every chance I get to preach at Burlington First CON. I can't explain the amount of love and encouragement being beamed back up at me as I preach to my home congregation. It's an invigorating experience. The handful of people who suffered through my first attempt to preach 14 years ago are still in awe of the fact that I'm actually able to put together a somewhat coherent sermon. Many of the same guys who gave me encouragement and advice during my early years are still there to greet me after I'm done. Although I'm certainly working to challenge the congregation, the "awe-shucks" factor makes it more like a concert than a typical Sunday at TF. But I must say, I love the encouragement.
During my message, I shared some of our story of infertility and failed adoptions. A couple about our age came up to us after church and said they just went through the IVF procedure and are waiting to see if it will work. I could see both fear and hope in the wife's eyes. We then prayed for them and they prayed for us; it was a powerful moment.
I was also able to join Pastor Terry in annointing one of the great saints of that church.

Erin was able to share about Love Wins
I really should've preached less so Erin could've had more time to share. My sweet wife nailed it in sharing her story, vision and fruit from Love Wins. She had the congregation in the palm of her hand. I could hear people around me sniffling from tears as she shared (though that might've just been my dad). The even better sound was the opening of purses and checkbooks during the offering for Love Wins. In a single offering right at the end of worship, Burlington First donated $1177.06!

It was a good week at Tan-Ta-Ra and a good weekend at my parents, but it's good to be home.
I now need to be done blogging and get to work on Sunday's message; Sunday morning is just 6 days away!

Church Camp for Pastors

Erin and I got back late last night from an incredible week. We spent Tuesday - Friday at Tan-Ta-Ra in the Lake of the Ozarks for our District's Pastors and Spouses retreat. Friday - Sunday we were at my parents, where I helped with the dedication of my niece and preached at my home church, which is its own blog entry.

The best way to describe Pastors and Spouses retreat is that it's church camp for pastors. Church camp was a great experience when I was a kid. Although I realize that if you've never been, church camp sounds like a step below band camp, but it was a good time!

Our speaker for the week was Ron Salisbury; pastor of New Life Community CON in Pismo Beach, CA. When I read the bio about Ron saying his church had a 60% conversion rate, he immediately had my respect and attention. I can't overstate what a godly, humble, sensitive and wise man Ron is. A lot of his wisdom and sensitivity came as a result of his 2 year battle with prostate cancer. Ron's messages were challenging and inspiring.

A great part about the retreat is relaxing and hanging out with other pastors from the Kansas City District. Unless you've been a pastor, it's impossible to understand what it's like to live this role. Other pastors understand each other and there's an immediate connection.

Another great aspect is the Tan-Ta-Ra resort. The place is just beautiful, especially with all the spring blooms. On Wednesday morning, I jogged four miles through the hilly campus. It was a good run, the hills didn't whip me as bad as I thought they would. At least, not at the time. But I could barely walk for the next three days. My hip and foot muscles were in serious pain. I'm accustomed to the flat landscape of Gardner, not the hills of the Ozarks.

We also spent some time racing go-carts and bowling. A few of these pictures show my battle with Clark Armstrong. Clark and I have a rivalry going back to last year. Clark hates it when I pass him and I hate it when he spins me into the wall. You can also see our District Superintendent riding his go-cart, even yawning a bit. Joel Atwell has some serious bowling form.

I spent a lot of time reflecting upon where our church was last year at this time. I came into retreat last year very frustrated with our progress as a church. Even though I'd spent all spring talking about it, we'd had very few unchurched families connecting with TF a year ago. I knew that reaching the unchurched was God's vision for TF, but I was really struggling with the reality that it wasn't happening very much. Last years' speaker challenged us to get serious in our prayer for lost people. Which prompted me to commit to praying during worship for lost people every Sunday during the summer. Just before I left for retreat, I counted the number of formerly unchurched families that have started calling TF home since last September. 10 families!!! Wow, that's incredible. I don't just think, I know there's a direct connection between our intentional prayer for the lost and the number of unchurched families we've reached. We were also just starting to dream about Love Wins last year during retreat. A year later, we're blown away by what God is doing through this ministry. There's just no way any of this is coincidence. God laid a burden for prayer on my heart and he's now producing amazing fruit.

I spent a lot of time out on the deck of my room, thanking God for what he's been doing through TF and asking his guidance for the future.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sexual Temptation

I preached on Lust yesterday, from Matthew 5:27-30. A difficult topic to discuss because of how pervasive the problem is. I knew that if God didn't give us grace and were to knock off every person in the room who'd ever lusted, I would've been preaching to an empty room...

Catch that?

All of us struggle/have struggled with lust in our past (even the preacher). It's hard for both men and women to live sexually pure lives in this sexually twisted culture. But the culture lies; what we're told will satisfy doesn't and what we're told is 'boring' (marital faithfulness) actually leads to fulfillment. A survey recently revealed that the most sexually satisfied people are married couples in their 50s. Faithfulness works!

While mowing the lawn yesterday, I heard a great podcast from Gateway Community Church about sex. It was a series entitled Sex in the City. As I was mowing, I was thinking "why hadn't I heard this before this morning." The pastor made a great comment, "lust is different than sex. A man can be completely sexually fulfilled but still tempted to lust." That's completely true in my life. Erin and I have a wonderful sex life and yet I still have to guard myself against the temptation to lust. I'm a man, I'll always have the temptation. But with the power of the Resurrection, I can be more than just "normal."

After the message, I had a guy share his story with me. While he said it was okay to use his name, I'm choosing to keep it private. Believe me, I respect this guy a ton. And even more so after he got so honest with me and said I could share his story. So here's what he had to say:

For me, sexual temptation is like a deep slimy pit. I stood on the outside of it, looking in, and it looked fun and harmless. Once I jumped in, I couldn't get out. I tried and tried. I knew I was in the wrong place but I coudn't get out. Every once in a while I would get so disgusted or ashamed at myself, I would start to make a little headway in escaping. However, before I would know it, I would fall back to the bottom. Sometimes I would think about giving up trying to get out. However, a combination of your preaching, God's voice in my head and a podcast kept me going. The podcast talked about what the story of your life is. I didn't want my story to be involving my kids or wife saying, "He was a good guy, but that time I caught him looking at THAT on the computer, that really changed my level of respect for him." Then I wandered into a honest men's accountability group. They don't work for everyone, but for me, the change was instant. I didn't want to have to look the guys in the face and tell them that I fell flat on my face.
Now, I have climbed the ladder out of the hole and can see out of the top. I have pushed the sexual temptation monster out of my way and I can see all the other hurdles and holes in my life. I don't want to fall back into the sexual temptation hole because I am not sure I will be able to find the ladder again. Really, I don't know the formula for getting out of the hole. I had been trying for over a decade with utter failure at every turn. My best guess is it was a combination of a high level of desire to get out along with peep pressure with a lot of God's grace. Anyway, my life has changed and I really don't want to go back to where I was before.

CHRIST IS RISEN! Now go get accountable!!!

Super Servant - Noel Forrester

I just heard a third-person account of a wonderful act of service done by one member of our community for another. One family at TF recently had their vehicle broke down and the mechanic gave them two really bad options: 1) Sell the vehicle for $50 scrap metal or 2) pay $3,500 to fix the engine.
To make a long story short, Noel Forrester said he could get the engine for $500 and would put it in for them. Wow, that's awesome!
That's awesome for two reasons. First of all, I can barely change my oil so I'm impressed by those with mad mechanical skills. But secondly that's awesome because it's a great picture of the discipline of serving others.

Good stuff.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A great thought from the Pope

One of my favorite sabbath (day off) activities is staying up late reading the night before my day off. Last night, I read Newsweek from cover to cover. Some great articles in this week's edition.
One interesting article compared the last Pope to the current Pope. The article compared the current Pope's (Benedict) Regensburg Lecture on faith and reason to John Paul's "June 1979 moment." I'm not sure about Benedict's lecture, but the description of John Paul's "moment" was incredible. In June of 79, John Paul gave a speech to his native Poland; a country firmly locked up in communist control. He didn't mention politics, economics or communism. Instead, he spoke of Poland's authentic history and deeply religious culture. John Paul challenged his fellow Poles to the noble project of restoring their true identity. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but historians say that speech marked the beginning of the end of the communistic Russian empire. I love history.

I also love talking about Jesus and the current Pope gave a great response to a kid who asked how we can know Jesus is here even though we can't see him. "No, we cannot see him; there are many things we do not see, but they exist and are essential... We do not see an electric current; yet we see that it exists. We can see that this microphone is working, and we see lights. We do not see the very deepest things, those that really sustain life and the world, but we can see and feel their effects... So it is with the Risen Lord: we do not see him with our eyes, but we can see that wherever Jesus is, people change, they improve, there is greater capacity for peace, for reconciliation."

I hope that's true in your life.
Now I need to renew my Newsweek subscription for another year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My first funeral

I did my first funeral this evening; it was an interesting experience. The funeral was for Richard Haemmerle, Bill Haemmerle's dad. Richard had been to TF a few times with Bill and Karen. Between trips to the hospital and nursing home, I'd had some good talks with Richard.
To be honest, I don't think I was prepared enoughfor the message, though. The family members said I did fine, which is what really matters, but I was nervous the whole way through. I could tell I was nervous becuase I kept losing my place and stumbling over my words. I think I underestimated the difficulty of giving inspiring words to a hurting crowd.
But overall it went well. I think I was able to give some biblical encouragement to the family and friends. It's quite an honor to be able to do the funeral for a good man who lived a long, good life. Incredible privelege.

Here's a copy of what I said, if anyone is interested.

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to this time of celebrating the life of Richard Haemmerle. Richard gave his family and friends a lot to remember and a lot to be thankful for. We can also be honest and admit that tonight is a time of mourning. It hurts to lose the people we care for the most. It hurts to say goodbye to a Dad; to say goodbye to a Grandpa.
We read in the bible of a time in which Jesus’ first followers were getting ready to say goodbye to him. Jesus gently reminded them that the goodbye in this life, as painful as it is, is not the final goodbye.
John 14:1-3
Jesus is telling us here that if we’re following him in this life, we can know that there is something even better for us in the next life. During some of our long conversations at the hospital and the nursing home, Richard and I talked about his relationship with Jesus. He admitted to me that he’d gotten more serious about his commitment to Jesus as he’d gotten older. So we can know that Richard hasn’t said his final goodbye.
SONG – In the Garden
I’ve only known Richard for the past few years. I’m told that he’s really mellowed out in later life, partly because of his sickness, partly because of a realization about the importance of relationships. But he still held onto some of his trademark stubbornness. Even in death, when he decided it was time to go, he didn’t waste much time. He had made up his mind, so there was no point in messing around. We’re also meeting in the evening, rather than the daytime, because Richard was adamant in his desire not to put anyone out. “I do not want anyone to miss work because of my funeral.” So I certainly hope none of you are missing work!

I’m sure you’ve taken some time the last few days to reflect upon what Richard’s life has meant to you. The way he cared for you, the things he taught you. It was a long life, filled with a lot of good things. I’ve been told that one of the most important lessons Richard ever taught his family was that you should never wear yellow socks to the zoo. This lesson was learned on a family trip to the zoo that was largely uneventful, until everyone decided to go visit the elephants. The kids were scattered among the elephant cages when they hear this yell. The kids look over and see that ‘dad’ is laying on the ground with an elephant trunk wrapped around his ankle. It took awhile for the zoo keepers to convince the elephant to let Richard go. Turns out that the elephant thought Richard’s yellow socks were peanuts. It wasn’t long after that incident that the zoo put up safety fences between the elephants and the humans.
It was a long good life, with a lot of good memories.

One of the terrible things about living in this screwed-up world is that sometimes a long life means the last few years aren’t so healthy. That was the case with Richard. The last few years were tough, he wasn’t quite the same. But even as rough as it was, the slower pace forced on Richard created more time for family connections. And from my conversations with Richard, it seems he was doing a lot reflecting about what really matters in life.
As I mentioned earlier, Richard talked passionately with me about his commitment to Christ. He shared how he’d begun to take his relationship with God more seriously later in life. I could see in his eyes that he really meant it.
We’re assured in the Bible that because of Richard’s commitment to Christ, the condition in which he ended his earthly life is not the condition he’s in right now. Richard has traded a body that falls apart for a body that will never grow tired. And as Richard stands right now, as we speak, in the very presence of God, he’s traded a faith that is unseen for a faith that’s being confirmed by his brand new eyes.
We’re given this exact promise in two different places in the bible:
1 Peter 1:3-9
1 Corinthians 15:51-58


Important days like this are great times to ask important questions. So I want to ask you some important questions. Are you ready to live your life for Jesus in this life so you’re then ready to spend eternity with Jesus in the next life? Are you willing to turn from a life where you’re in control and to give your life over to Jesus? Are you willing to embrace the life that God has for you, so that when this physical life ends you’ll be prepared for the next life. As we listen to this next song, I encourage you to take some time thinking about those questions. And as a pastor, I’m here to help people keep take steps in their relationship with God. If you’ve got stuff you need to talk about afterwards, just let me know. Feel free to talk to God about them, too. He’s listening.

SONG – Old Rugged Cross


Thank you for being here. Thank you for celebrating Richard’s life. Please go in peace.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some more thoughts on Sunday's message

Philip Wheeler recently wrote out some thoughts regarding the passage I preached from on Sunday, Matthew 9:1-8, the healing and forgiving of the paralyzed man. Philip's thoughts are from Mark's account, however, in the 2nd chapter. These are some really powerful thoughts. I encourage you to allow them to sink in.

Mark 2:7; Who are you to forgive sins?
In Job The Devil is named Satan. This means "Adversary". Usually people jump to the conclusion that this is a military term. It is not. It is a legal term. The defense attorney is the Advocate, the one who speaks for you. The prosecuting attorney is the Adversary, the one who speaks against you. He is your accuser. He is the one who points out your sins.
When the devil and angel appear on your shoulder, like in a movie, its not the angel telling you what you can't do, its the devil.
In Mark 6:7, Mark's version of the healing of the paralytic, the teachers of the law serve as the adversary. "Who are you to forgive sin?"
The devil is that whisper in the darkness of your heart that asks "Who are you?"
"Who are you to say you are a Christian? I know what sites you look at on the Internet."
"Who are you? I know what you call your coworker behind her back."
"Who are you? You don't give a proper tithe."
"Who are you to talk to your neighbor about Christ? You aren't a deacon, or evangelist, or missionary."
"Who are you to point out a friends error? You are not perfect yourself."
"Who are you to try to feed the hungry or clothe the needy? You are one person, you can't save them all."
"Who are you? You are just a soundguy, just a techguy, just a musician, just a nursery worker, just an usher, just a setup person, just a pastor."
"Who are you? You got distracted during the sermon today."
"Who are you? You are helpless. You are hopeless."
This is the voice of Satan, the Adversary, telling us we have to be something else before we can be a Christian. Telling us we have to be better before we can be a Christian. Telling us we are just not worth it. Telling us we are not worthy.
However, remember, Christ says "Your sins are forgiven." You are not what you do. You are not what you try to be. You are His. He doesn't say after you fix up your act you will be forgiven. He doesn't say you will be forgiven if you work at it. He says you ARE forgiven.
He encourages. He heals. He sends people to support you on your journey.
You can do it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I live in Kansas

I live in Kansas where the Jayhawks are still national champs and the wind is still blowing.

This video is now ALL over the internet, featured video on youtube and linked from Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and other sports blogs.

The wind has been blowing straight since Feb. 1st or something. It never stops. The shingles on my roof finally decided they'd been holding on long enough and are now dive-bombing my yard in a final blaze of glory. Hopefully I can get the roofing company out here soon.

More props for Love Wins

A bit more publicity for our Love Wins ministry. A fellow pastor in the KC area wrote some sermons for Preachers' Magazine and he talks about Love Wins in a message entitled, "The Church 'Out There'." If you want to read it, here's a link.
The message isn't up yet, but when it is it will be the June 8th message.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Everything is right again in the world

Never in my life have I experienced anything like what I experienced last night at Allen Fieldhouse. As the final seconds were ticking away, a loud note was blasted over the PA and people began storming the court. It took me a second to realize that the deafening sound coming over the PA was the first note of U2's Where the Streets Have No Name. I've never seen so many people simply abandon themselves to the pure thrill of the moment. It was amazing! Since I'm really just a casual observer, I sat up top and videotaped it. Something happened to the my video file and I can't get it on my computer, but if you want to see a video of the same thing, click here. The theologian in me wondered if there could possibly be more excitement when Christ returns someday and sets the world right again. I'm sure that whenever the Parousia does occur, Bono will provide the soundtrack.

We then left Allen Fieldhouse, drove within about 5 blocks of ground zero and then pushed our way into the exact center of the party, 9th and Massachusetts. As Caleb Wood, Nate Warren, Mike Palmer and I walked among the crowd in awe of what we were seeing, Mike said it best, "I've never seen so many drunk people in one place!" Yeah, there were probably a few of the 10 Commandments being broken but it was an amazing scene. Kids climbing light towers and trees, people break dancing in the middle of the street to Jay-Z and an old-school Coolio song, fireworks bursting in the sky and every single person high-fiving or hugging you like you're their long lost brother. I didn't bring my camera with me, but I did find this video on youtube - link. or this - link

Yes, for Kansas fans who are convinced they rule the world or at least convinced they invented the game of basketball (they basically did) everything is right in the world.

To see my video footage of Chalmer's game-tying shot from Allen Fieldhouse, click here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My new favorite blog

My sweet wife somehow stumbled across the blog, Paris Daily Photo. This is quickly becoming my favorite blog because it's about my favorite city.

This picture of the Notre Dame Cathedral at sunset is just breathtaking, link
This one isn't bad, either (you can see Notre Dame silhouetted in the background).

To see some more great pictures of Notre Dame de Paris follow the wikipedia link.

There's an interesting line in this article about a legend that says those who stand at Point Zero in Paris will eventually return to the city. Maybe that's why I still have dreams about returning to Paris.

So, just for fun, I've thrown up some of my own Paris photos.

I really fell in love with this city. I'll never forget sitting in the park you see here, eating a french baguette with cream cheese in the shadow of a 6th century church, discussing Dicken's Tale of Two Cities. Or sitting on the wall of Notre Dame, reading Victor Hugo. Or sitting on the park at the end point of isle de cite. I could go on and on...