Monday, November 24, 2014

Prayers for Ferguson


Aldine Bell sent me this website as we continue to pray for peace in Ferguson, Missouri.  I invite you to open the link : .  Not only are you invited into praying, but you will find places on the website where you can be of help.  In addition, you will have the opportunity to experience healing words from pastors and leaders in the area.  As you enter a time of Thanksgiving, pray for Ferguson.
Praying for peace becomes a holy purpose.  We are about to enter into the season of Advent, where we celebrate the Prince of Peace.  As people who follow Jesus, our prayer life must be engaging and authentic in our lives, as well as the lives around us. 
On the journey,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Questions

And so the October challenge begins!  The challenge to read through the book of Matthew (adults) or Mark (children /youth) by Christmas has been made.   I have had a number of requests for the two questions that you might ask as you are reading scripture.  They are:
     1.  What does this passage teach you about God?
     2.  What does this passage teach you about God's will for your life?  Or, what is God saying to you as you read the text?
When you approach the Bible with these questions in mind, you will find an openness to the Spirit.  When I read, I have a pen in hand.  Sometimes I write in the margins of the Bible, while other times I need a journal or pad of paper.  A journal allows me to explore a bit more when the text has stirred up something within me.

If you have children in your household, you might need to assist or even read to some of the younger ones as they begin to explore Mark.  If your child has a received a Bible from the church, please consider reading out of it.  Not only do the Sunday School teachers use this particular version in their classes, but you will help your child make his/her personal Bible something that is beloved and used.  Encourage your kids to take part in the challenge .  Celebrate with them as they read chapter by chapter.  Encouraging faith development in a child now, makes all the difference in the world.

For those of you not present this last Sunday, there are incentives!  When kids finish the book of Mark, they need to let me know.  They will receive:
  • a bookmark
  • a certificate
  • a chance to sign the Challenge Canvas
  • and two cookies from Heavenly Sweets, made especially for this challenge.
I quickly learned that adults like incentives as well!  Primarily... you want the special cookies.  We are all kids at heart.  We will have adults sign the Challenge Canvas too.

I look forward to reading the book of Matthew with you.  I can't wait to hear what the Lord is teaching you.

On the journey,


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Discipleship Pathway

   I'm grateful to be part of a congregation that wishes to go deeper in spiritual discipleship and renewal.  Lynn Jansen and I unveiled the Discipleship Pathway or Camino Discipulado at the end of September.  If you weren't in church on September 18, I invite you to pick up a copy of the services for that morning.  Former Bishop Reuben Job writes, Christians see grace most clearly in God's act of self-giving through the person of Jesus Christ.  As we progress in our Christian life, we deeply desire to go deeper.  There are tools and practices that can help us become more Christ-like.  The Discipleship Pathway or Camino Discipulado is a tool modeled after people of great faith.  In order to be like Jesus, we gotta go deep. 

   In this church, the mission is to follow and invite others to follow Jesus Christ.  We live that out through the tenets of our vision:  Celebrate, Support and Serve.  This gives us the pathway to to follow.
Celebrate:  If you want to experience God, corporate worship is a means of grace that can lead us toward wholeness and a deeper connection.  Worship can be a profound experience when we actively engage it.  In worship, we gather with others and experience grace.  Daily prayer is essential for us to be open to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.  When we come to be entertained or pray only in crisis, we miss the richness of Celebration.
SupportDiscipleship requires we learn.  We are disciples -- followers-- of Jesus.  In order to follow, we need to learn.  I am attempting to learn Spanish.  Now I can wish that I was fluent all that I want; however, it is in the study and conversational lessons that is causing me to finally learn.  So too with our faith life.  We recognize the following classes and small groups are important to be a disciple:
  • Spiritual Gifts
  • Prayer and the Holy Spirit
  • Stewardship Small group
  • United Methodist Theology
  • Making Sense of the Bible or Yearly Church Wide Small Group (4-6 weeks)
   If you follow Jesus, then these are classes or groups that are critical.  You will want to take them over the next couple of years.  All will be offered on a regular basis.  For those that want to go deeper, then one of the two longer small groups is important:   Companions in Christ or Disciple Bible Study.  While a 9 month commitment seems daunting,  my greatest growth still is  found in the long term groups.  One other aspect of Support is giving.  Giving financially is tied to our discipleship.  We give out of a profound sense of gratitude to God for our very life. Giving financially is part of our worship--Our part towards God's ministries and mission.

Serve  Jesus was clear that he came not to be served, but to serve.  We can't be disciples of Jesus without serving in ministry.  The disciples were sent out to serve.  Serve where you are called-- where you are passionate.  If you are able, take part in a mission serve trip. There are multiple possibilities to be in service and on mission at this place and beyond our walls.  This is part of who we are.
I am sure we will talk again about this pathway.
On the journey,
*** Pick up a copy of the Discipleship Pathway or Camino Discipulado in the entryway!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Just Saying...

The common thread of conversation this week is the weather, which certainly is not a surprise considering the -45 windchill.  The new take on the weather is how balmy (I use that term loosely) today feels to folks.  Since when did 8 degrees become balmy weather! 

I realize I sometimes make the same assertions about my faith life.  Just like people feeling stuck inside due to the weather, some of us feel stuck in our spiritual journeys.  We are not quite sure how to get outside of our box.  While not satisfying to stay inside all day, getting stuck in our faith life is at least familiar to us.  We know what to expect, even if God does not seem relevant or particularly close.  Likewise, I am hearing stories within the congregation -- including myself at times-- that everything is just fine. I say things like my spiritual life is just balmy, when in all reality I know it isn't.  I am so grateful to be a part of a couple small groups that help keep me honest.  In a very real way, my small groups -- Covenant Group and Companions-- help me to stay discontented and engaged.  I don't want to be satisfied with a balmy spiritual life which is nice, safe and predictable.  I'm thankful the Spirit pushes and prods me into leaving the warm confines of what is known and comfortable to enter into a world that is hurting and lost.

Check out the new listings of small groups and classes.  Stretch your spiritual life this month.

On the journey,

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Look Back to Frame the Discussion Forward

A friend recommended on Facebook to look at a blog from Sojourners dealing with the 14 things the Church needs to do in 2014. ( )  It caught my attention and I thought I would post the first couple of questions:

1. Review what happened in 2013: What worked?  What didn’t? Where did we spend our money? How did we touch people’s lives?  What one word would describe 2013? Take some time and objectively look at what transpired in 2013.
2. Honestly answer the question “Why in the world would anyone want to come to this church?”: I believe that this is the biggest question that every church must ask itself. How one answers this question affects the ministry, outlook, and mission of the church. If you answer this question honestly, the answer might surprise you and scare you all at the same time.
I think these are great questions for leadership to look at for our next retreat, but I thought I would take an initial stab at them.  The simplest answer for what worked is the laity.  The laity, particularly leadership, deepened in discipleship in a way we have not experienced for awhile.  The digging into scripture, the inviting of the Holy Spirit and the stepping up in ministry changed us at a core level.   In addition, staff worked hard in their individual areas and we are seeing transformed lives because of the effort.  In 2013 in regards to what didn't work as well as I would have hoped,  I would say that Josh and I felt like we were running to keep up with the current and new ministries and folks.  At times that caused us to misstep or to not offer our best effort.  

We spent 2013 and will continue to work with aligning our resources -- money and staff.  This is an important piece.  We funded our budget, which includes ministries, mission, and apportionments.  The on-going work of aligning our resources with our mission is critical. This year both North Liberty and New Horizons were on the receiving end of grants, which helped immensely in missional work, such as the Pantry, ELL, the Latino emerging ministry and staffing.

How did we touch people's lives?  The easiest to bear witness to would be in the area of children and youth ministry.  Both areas are seeing lives transformed spiritually.  The Pantry numbers speak for themselves as this ministry continues to serve more and more people.  The emerging ministry with Latinos has grown to such a degree that we are seeing individuals out of our bilingual worship offering their own gifts in ministries.  Of course each time I try to conclude this section, I think of another aspect.  The last one I will mention in this blog is small groups.  We are seeing people deepen in their walk with Jesus.

The one word to describe us is three:  deepening as disciples.  That discussion, as well as the second question is for another time.
Peace my friends,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Developing a Personal Mission Statement of Faith

In the past few weeks in worship we have talked about living out God's purpose in our individual lives, as well as our life together.  I believe a personal mission statement of faith is critical for engaging our life in God fully.  While there are a lot of templates for creating your mission statement, I found this one and adapted it for our purposes:
  1. Ask God to be present.  Approach writing your vision statement with a prayerful heart.
  2. Answer the following questions to help clarify your thinking, as well as listen to God:
  • Do I feel God has a purpose for my life?
  • In what ways has God been working in my life?
  • What brings me joy or satisfaction?
  • What is God challenging me to leave behind or are there any bad habits to break?
  • What would I do with my time if I didn't need to work for an income?
  • What would I do if money was no object?
  • If my life ended now, would I have regrets?
    3.  To help focus on your gifts, answer the following questions:
  • What do I know more than others know?
  • What can I do better or could teach others to do?
  • What do I love more than anything in terms of ministry or service?
  • What are the gifts God has already given you?
   4.  Using your answers write about recurring themes they reveal in the following areas:
  spiritual growth, ministry opportunities, direction by the Holy Spirit, relationships and any other broad  categories that you wish to add.

   5.  Think about how you can use information from your past to shape the future.

   6.  Distill information in each category into one or two actionable statements.  For example under spiritual,
"I am deepening my relationship with Christ through scripture study and prayer" or "I am experiencing the joy of drawing others to Christ through love."   Write concrete statements that are based on your core values.

   7.  Now... in 1-3 sentences, write your mission statement from what you have learned from above.

I will share mine next week.  Happy visioning!

On the journey,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Continuing in Disorientation

Apparently I am not the only one in disorientation!  On Sunday I spoke about about a framework for our spiritual journeys using Moses' life as the backdrop.  If you read last week's blog, you undoubtedly realize that I had already been looking at my life through the lens of disorientation.  For those of you that are wandering around the wilderness in disorientation, I say to you, Take heart.  The wilderness is never fun or inviting.  It is painful, humbling and useful.  There is a harshness about the wilderness that sharpens us.  If we were not fully awake in our lives, the wilderness of disorientation teaches us to pay attention to what is important.  Spending time in the wilderness is not only inevitable, but it is critical for spiritual pilgrims to begin to find the gift in the wilderness.

To those of you who have never left the orientation stage, I say to you, "Open your eyes.  In the busyness of life it is easy to not be fully present in any situation.  We confuse activity with spirituality.  Open your eyes.  It is easier to move into disorientation if you are seeking to be more like Jesus in the everyday.  Disorientation happens as life unfolds.  To be caught unaware can be terrifying as you seek to navigate a death, a pay cut, a divorce, an affair, a betrayal or any number of life events.  Being open to the movement of the Spirit is essential.

For those of you moving into reorientation, I say to you, "Take courage."   You will experience God in new ways.  Moving into reorientation offers a better opportunity to better live out God's purpose for each of us.  God has a purpose for each one of us.  When we live out our purpose, peoples' lives are changed.  The Kingdom of God is alive in North Liberty!  When I am living God's vision for my life, I sense the presence of the Lord.  I invite you to engage the Lord wherever you find yourself:  orientation, disorientation, or reorientation.

See you on the journey,