Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#beorange

Since a certain school has rid itself of the hashtag, #beorange, I am here and now claiming it as my own. OK - so not "mine" but instead what I (and a whole lot of other people) have been working on at FLC these past few months.

These past couple of weeks, I've been excited. Not just a little, but a lot. We switching curriculum. No, that's not exactly right. We are changing the way we do things in our Y and F ministry. That seems weird to say, but it's true. Yes, we are doing Sunday morning faith formation. Yes, it is at the same time. So..in a sense, it isn't that we are doing things differently...but we are. Before I get into what it is we are doing, let me also say I have a sense of guilt inside of me as well. The guilt is that I am excited about this coming year. The guilt is that it feels as if I haven't been this excited for a while. It's not that I felt I was "phoning it in" necessarily, but the guilt that nothing I have done for a while has got me this jazzed for a long time. A really long time. I feel for the first time in a while it's not doing Sunday School, but rather a strategy to help develop faith in students. Rather than look and say "what stories do I want to be sure we cover the next year", it's, how am I helping students to see the relevance of their faith in their context. It's not, "how should we fill this time so the kids aren't let out early to run amuck around the church", it's, how do we help foster relationship between adults and students so they know they are cared for at church?

This also isn't a "we didn't put time into this before", because we did. It's not a "we didn't care about what happened" before, because we did. Rather, this is a "I really stinking believe this strategy could make a difference in the lives of our students". I've been here for...quite a while. Honestly, this is the easiest I've ever (by me, I mostly mean Jill) in recruiting people to be small group leaders (ya...they aren't teachers). Why? Well, my hope is that they didn't see themselves as babysitters, or whatever, but rather as people who want to help form the faith of our kids. As people whose main goal it is to build relationships. People who care enough about the next generation to invest their time and effort into what we are doing.

I'll be honest, every year since I arrived at FLC I've received some weird Orange postcard, email, letter telling me how exciting this strategy is. And for the most part, I think I recycled each one. (truth be told, in one of my "o crap, I need to make a place for somebody to sit", I may have thrown one or two in the garbage. It wasn't until last January or so that I actually watched a youtube video about it. From there I downloaded the free stuff, then chose a handful of people to listen in on a call with an Orange representative. After speaking with Amy (who herself was super excited about it) I spoke with churches (Lutheran and non) using it. They all seemed excited. I was sold.


My original plan was to just use it for K-5. Then we expanded to 0-3. Now we are using it for 6-7 grade as well as with my HS Youth Group. Now I'm all in.

Did I mention the best part? (ok - I know the answer because I've written this) One of the things I'm most excited about is an app and an email. So, the entire concept behind Orange is that Red is home, yellow is church....maybe it's yellow is home and red is church...anyway...one of my favorite things about this is how they get students need both. (Put red and yellow together and you get...Orange!). The app is Parent Cue. It's easy, useable, and relatable. It's a simple way for parents to connect with their students in simple easy activities that can be done at home, in the car, before bed, whenever. The same stuff in the app will be sent in an email to the parents.

Part of my excitement right now is I had the last of three meetings to get ready for this coming Sunday. Ya...so Sunday morning we had a SGL (small group leader) meeting and all but two were able to come. Seriously. That is awesome. The other two came tonight. After that meeting, I met with our Large Group Leaders. They are on board and pretty awesome as well. Don't worry - I'm not expecting this to go off without any hiccups. I am relying on 5 electronic devices to make everything go smooth. Ha....I wish.

There is much more floating in my head right now such as the Facebook groups that have been supportive and helpful when trying to figure out the lingo, the fantastic XP3 Middle School specialist who, despite laughing at me a lot yesterday because I was really clueless, was extremely helpful, and much more. Heck - I even painted today. Ok - so our custodian came in and kinda sorta just laughed at the job I had done and told me he would help tomorrow to make it look better.

Anyway - my wife, Jill, and our pastors I'm pretty sure have been rolling their eyes at me especially these past few weeks as my excitement has grown, and now you can too!

A few other notes (things you probably don't care about but I will share anyway)

  • The Twins are a game up in the Wild Card. That is super exciting. They can hit and are even pitching a little bit!
  • Vikings won. No, they dominated. That was awesome, although I only saw a bit of it as I was at a 3rd grade student, parent, and an uninvited bat meeting at church. Have I mentioned I really like the families we have at FLC?
  • My fantasy teams went 2-2 this week. 
  • Below are two versions of the same song I have been listening to a lot. I really like them both, but lean a little more to the acoustic set :)





Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Let it Be...

What the internet really needs right now is another blog post about where young adults are going to church. Seriously. Nothing leads young adults to church more than blog posts about how they are leaving this church for that one. What really makes a difference to young adults is an argument as to what type of worship service is really going to reach them. Also - when doing so, let's be sure to use anecdotal evidence to prove it is so. "Look! I spoke to a young adult, and they went to a contemporary worship service as a kid, and now they are (insert traditional church here). So, what that means is that churches like that are unwelcoming, inauthentic, cliquish, shallow, etc."

The real benefit is that people who then prefer that style can re-post, like, etc. and use as proof as to who really knows Jesus better, who has a better handle on this whole "faith thing" better, and more importantly we can use it as proof that we don't need to change anything.

Yesterday, I was flipping through radio stations and there were a couple of folk talking on the radio about whether or not Catholics really knew Jesus or if they were just going through the motions (and then of course on their way to hell. They were spending the entire time discussing why (some...not all) Catholics needed to be saved and how to discuss faith with Catholics to get them to better understand who Jesus is. 

It's always nice when we can compare ourselves to others and feel better about who we are. By disqualifying what or who other people are, we can feel better about ourselves. One could actually go so far as to say it is a form of bullying.

Now, let me be clear, if somebody wants to talk about what has been meaningfull to them, if somebody wants to discuss with others how they grow in faith in a way that invites people in, I think that's great. In fact, it's not only great, but I think that is what we are called to. Also - if a church feels strongly about "this is who we are", then own it! Don't own it by belittling our brothers and sisters down the street who have a different set of letters on the outside of their building, but rather live out who you are and who you feel you are being called to be. 

OK - so I should be careful as I'm a Lutheran...and let's be honest, Luther said some very not nice things about others, whether they be Jews, Catholics, women, etc. So I guess this is really nothing new. My churches own namesake was very blunt in how he sometimes spoke of other people in different faith traditions etc.

My point is, let's ease up on the tallying. Let's worry about the plank in our own (churches) eye before being to concerned about the specks in other churches'.

Can this blogpost be seen as ironic? Sure. Is it mine? Yes. So deal with it!

Random thoughts....
  • My dog looks like some type of rat right now. He had to get shaved down and before I knew it he was one of those tiny dogs wearing a sweater because he was too cold with no hair. Not cool.
  • Twins are not good. I'm trying to get myself excited about the season, but it is getting hard, especially with Santana testing positive for some kind of drug...sigh.
  • I'm actually getting excited about VBS. Honestly, it usually takes me a while to get myself excited about it, but with as well as it went last summer, I really am stoked about it this year!
And here is my music video of the day! Owl City (I believe) hales from Owatonna and has done music for a Disney movie or tow. I really am a fan of a lot of his music.



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Next?

What's next? Seriously, I'm asking the question. What I know is that part of me is really tired. Yes, this *may have to do a bit with spending some time with Coz during phase 2 of my sabbatical where a few nights of xbox and other activities had me staying up later than I normally would. Part of me being tired is because when I did return I had a fairly busy schedule including a huge fundraiser that while it ran in-spite of me, I found myself fairly anxious about it. It also meant I didn't get my typical Sunday afternoon nap in.

The other reason I feel tires is it seems as though we keep having the same arguments over and over and over. On one hand we are in the midst of a struggle with how busy should our students be? Our schools are looking at having more practices while there seem to be more club type teams taking more and more of our students time as well. So trying to relate to students where faith comes in and why it is relevant seems to be more and more difficult. It isn't only club teams on the weekends (the school has practices on Sundays as well) and it isn't just the school having practices on Wednesdays as the club teams have practices and games on Wednesday nights.

One the other hand, we are still very much in the midst of discussing worship at church. Conversations that seemed to be happening in the 1990's in many places are being had now. Let me be clear, I really don't think people on one side or the other are trying to say things that can be hurtful to the other side, but the reality is worship can be a very personal thing and these types of battles can be painful to people on both sides. As the guy who has developed and plans our New Song service, it is clear which "side" I am on, but that doesn't mean I don't respect where others are coming from. 

In some way those two things seem to have nothing to do with one another, but to me they are very much related. On the one hand, I am trying to figure out a way (any way possible) to help students and families figure out why faith is relevant. I really don't have a magic way to do this, and I am also the kind of person that is willing to try anything. Then I sometimes feel as if I cam running into a brick wall when I go to try to do something at worship that might be outside of our congregants comfort zone, and there is enormous push back. 

These are the kinds of things that can suck life out of a person.

Then, suddenly, something happens to give you hope. This past Sunday, we had two such things happen.

1) After leading worship, as I am heading downstairs, I was walking behind a lady who was talking to her friend about the service. she was asking her friend if we did worship like that every Sunday and how much she liked it. Then, she tracked down our pastor and told him how much it meant to her and how the service and music really spoke to her. She hadn't been to church in a really long time and  this was just what she needed.

2) Sunday night we had a fundraiser. First of all, I was excited about 130 or so tickets being sold. Second, the fact we had a nice cross section of the congregation was also awesome. All of the money raised was going towards camperships to Ewalu as well as helping to pay for our Senior High students to go to Colorado. About $7,800 was raised. i was blown away. I was excited that, even though we can disagree over screens and worship styles, we can come together and support our students.

So, as we struggle to find the right course as it pertains to worship styles, screens, student ministry, finding times to meet with students, figuring out ways to better help students grow in faith, and whatever else comes up, I am reminded that we are still a people of hope. If I didn't think this mattered, I would just give up and find something else to do. But it does. This does matter. Jesus is still relevant. Our faith does matter. What we believe and how we live it out does matter. 

We just have to figure out the best way to pass it along is this rapidly changing, tech oriented world.
  • We are doing this song at worship on Sunday. I heard it at the Upper Room last week when i worshipped there and loved it.





Thursday, February 6, 2014

Free Socks?!?

The question isn't what would you do for a free pair of socks, but rather what wouldn't you do for a free pair of socks!

A couple of weeks ago, my counterpart at another church in town and I needed to head to LaCrosse some some important business. We are both a huge deal, so we needed to get some stuff done out of town. Anyway, just before we left, I threw my skis in the car. I was given a pair of skis and bindings a few years ago, but had never purchased boots. Since we had a little bit of time while up in LaCrosse, I figured that could be on the agenda. After a meeting with the LaCrosse Area Bishop (yea....no joke) we preceded to stop at a few ski shops.

I should also mention that ski boots, while it appears as though they shouldn't be overly expensive, can be. I will admit I had a bit of sticker shock when i started looking at the prices. However, one of the shops that I went into offered me a free..that's right...FREE pair of ski socks if I bought a pair of boots. Seriously, how could I resist? Did I mention they were free???? I felt like I had just won the lotto...no...it was like when my eldest son Luke was born. Yea, it was that awesome.

For some reason, my wife did not realize what a great deal free socks was...were...was. Umm...my wife did not realize how great it was I got a free pair of socks with my boots.

At any rate, I was able to go home, free socks in hand. If I had a mantle, I would actually hang my socks above it. Not during the summer, that wouldn't make sense, but maybe in the winter.

Moving on, since I was not all set with boots, skis, and FREE socks, I was pumped to actually use them. Hence, that next week the family went skiing. We also went the next weekend. In part, this was because skiing is something we all enjoy doing. The other reason was I had just spent too much money on boots and felt as if I had to use them. It honestly would have been pretty silly for me to buy the boots, then not use them. I had a certain amount of buy-in with the boots.

I take my job fairly personally. I have a hard time separating myself to things happening at the church. When I go home at night, I don't leave my job behind. When things are going well with a student, it is awesome. When I see a kid struggling, it stays with me. I have a certain amount of buy in in the ministry that I do. When I begin a relationship with a Sunday School student, parent, or young adult, I begin to care about how their life is going to go. I begin to care if they are struggling with issues, and I rejoice with them when I see them have ah-ha moments or see them succeed in some other capacity. The more time I spend with students, the more I care, the more I want to do to see them grow in a relationship with God, and help them live it out. When that works, it is great. When it doesn't, it really sucks.

We are not promised that things are going to be easy. In fact, I'm pretty sure Jesus mostly talks about how difficult things are going to be when we choose to follow him. You see, when we choose to follow, not just believe, we have more buy in with the world and people around us. Suddenly, it starts to matter more about how our friends and neighbors ware doing. Now, while we are not promised awesome socks, we are promised that we will not be alone in our journey. There is a cost that comes with buying in when it comes to following Christ. We don't know what the fruit is going to be, but when we do buy in, we want to do more, we want to serve more, we want to help others grow in their faith.

So, as I sit here at Magpie, I am asking myself, how can I invest more into my faith life. How can I personally grow in my own faith journey, knowing full well that when I do, I will feel compelled to do more. To care for others more. I invite you to do the same.

A few quick side notes....

  • I had a J-term intern. She was fantastic....I'll blog about it at some point.
  • Now that football season is over with, I am starting to get over the fact that my fantasy teams and Vikings were all equally terrible.
  • I am usually at least slightly optimistic about the baseball season. I'm having a hard time finding any type of hope with the Twins this year.
  • I went to 2 partial day continuing ed events in the cities. One about boys and church, the other about why we need to do a good job ministering to youth. Both were great. They are on my list of things to blog about.
  • Whenever I watch on of those videos about soldiers coming home...whether real or not, I will admit I tear up. This video does the same thing for me.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tebow, the Great and Powerful

OK - I will admit it, I like Tebow. Part of it is probably he does the whole "Jesus" thing, but the other part is all he does (did) was win games. He has that "it" factor, that when it comes to winning, he just does it. At Florida he was a beast. Without a doubt, Tebow was one of the top 10 college football players of all time. He dominated. When he started at Denver, he took over a team that was 0-4, made the playoffs and beat the Steelers. It wasn't prety. In fact, throughout many of his pro games, for the first 3 quarters, he looked terrible. For whatever reason, once the forth quarter hit, he would take over. It wasn't just his play that mattered, but it was his leadership.

The reason I bring up Tebow is so you have some background as I continue my discussion on my sabbatical. If you had read previous blogs, I spent 2 weeks in the cities, staying with a former intern of mine named Coz. I think when I first asked him about crashing at his place for two weeks, he was a bit aprehensive. However, once I brought up the idea of stealing my kids xbox for 2 weeks, he was much more amiable to the idea. Coz lives in St. Paul, near major roads, so honestly it was an ideal location for me. Plus, he had two bedrooms, meaning I could have my own space without infringing too much in his space.

So for two weeks, I slept on a mattress on the floor of his spare room. I did pack a grocery bag of food prior to coming, as I didn't want to have him thinking that I was going to mooch off of his food. What I found out when I arrived was that this wasn't going to be an issue, as other than some mustard and pickles, there really wasn't much in the fridge. he was kind enough to make space for my cocoa puffs, hot dogs, strawberrys, half and half, and chips. (I was living the high life!)

In addition to having coz along on my worship trips on the weekends, it was honestly great to have somebody to throw feedback at after my ministry visits and as he is in the 20-30 demo, it was interesting to have his take after each worship service. More importantly was our late evening bonding time. Depending on the day, I would sometimes have evening commitments, as would he. No matter what our days had entailed, we would typically end with some type of xbox game. I did go ahead to purchase a couple of used games, including a soccer game, which I was terrible at. In fact, our first few games were not even close. I know nothing about soccer, I think it is a lame sport, and Coz is a certified ref. No playoffs? No thanks.

What did this call for? Tebow Time. it was at this point that Tebow (Florida version) was called upon to save my dignity. Tebow single handidly dominated Coz. I probably could have put him in at defense, but that would have just been mean.

I am still unsure of the highlight of my time with Coz. I have narrowed it down to three things. 1) Tebow. 2) His reaction when I beat him in Soccer (we stayed up later than normal as he refused to end the night with a loss to me in soccer) 3) brunch.

Also - In addition to providing an xbox and hot dogs (all beef!) I did provide free maintainence. I fixed something. Yea. I was that awesome.

The point of this blog? Other than Tebow is a quality qb (I would prefer him over Freeman/Ponder/Cassel), there is none. Coz has been begging me to blog about my time with him for quite sometime, so this fulfills my commitment to him. 

I will leave you with this....




Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's Me!

I am going to really try the next few weeks to blog about different experiences I had on my sabbatical. A quick recap - my goal was to spend time with my family, spend time learning about what congregations are doing in regards to worship, young adult, and small group ministry, and do some time of personal renewal.

So, about me not opening up. Part of the issue with this is that to be honest, I don't always realize what types of things I am struggling with. A big part of my job is being around people, so I never actually just spend time alone. I mean, no TV, no ipod, no phone, no computer, just me. With a little encouragement, I decided to spend 1 day alone. There is a place in Minneapolis called the Urban retreat center. I didn't know what to expect, and was in fact fairly nervous about going, but I signed up anyway.

This place is just north of the cities, above this families garage. They day I showed up, I was surprised by the amount of trees surrounding this neighborhood. Anyway - I found my way around to this, what ended up being a really nice space with an open living room, a coffee maker, a nice little kitchen, and a smaller room with a couch and very comfy napping chair.

My host met me and showed me around. Outside there was a walking labyrinth, there were walking trails close by, she had lunch for me in the refrigerator, then asked if I wanted to code to get on-line. I told her no, knowing that if I had the code, I would probably get on. She then handed me a tentative schedule. The first thing that impressed me was the time blocked out for a nap. She had me going for a walk, reading, journaling, eating, and just sitting, hanging out. Before she left, she asked if I had brought anything to read. I said no. She went over and grabbed a book and told me that she thought this book would be really good for me. it was a book dealing with the story of the Prodigal Son. Whatever.

So after i got over the 20 minutes of being by myself without a phone, music, or anything, I went for a walk. Ok, so I took a wrong turn and the walk took me a few extra minutes. Anyway, it was fine. Kind of weird..but fine. I came back to start some reading. I began, then about 15 minutes later woke up. After making some coffee, I began reading in the comfy chair again. I will admit, I really got into it. After reading for a while, i decided to jump ahead a little bit and see what the author had to say about the "other" brother. You know, the one that tries to do the right thing but his parents throw the party for the brother that went off to some big city? Did I mention I'm a middle child?

Anyway, after a really stinking good lunch, I went ahead and read some more. It was crazy how this book that had been handed to me, how much it was speaking to me, where I was, right then. It wasn't a crazy epiphany moment, but it's like this had been written just for me.

Finally, I felt the need to walk around, so i went through the labyrinth. I found my mind wandering a fair amount about a wide range of topics. Finally, near this spot was a large lounger chair and I went to sit by. After a few minutes, I actually said out loud "OK - seriously - what am I doing out here right now? Is there something I need to know?" Yes, I actually said it out loud. I will be completely honest, I don't have a lot of "God is speaking to me" moments. Suddenly, as I am sitting there, I realized how alone I had felt the last few months. The months leading up to my sabbatical had been a bit on the stressful side. I also don't cry a lot. Seriously. Do I get upset? Yes. Full out cry? No. But there it was...all out tears coming down. Suddenly, I am sitting there wondering whether or not I have anyone in my life that will hold me up. Suddenly, the story of the four guys lowering their friend through the rough jumps in my head, wondering to myself, who will do this for me? Finally, four faces jumped up at me. It was like a load that I hadn't even realized I had been carrying around was lifted off. I know what this sounds like.

Here's the other thing about me. I'm really good at the more on the surface relationship. I'm not good at the "let me share how I am feeling, struggling with, and what I screwed up" part of my life. I don't like to share with people. Period. I like people to see me as the guy who cares about them, is a happy kind of guy, and who seems to have things figured out. The other thing that spoke to me that day was that I needed to be able to share with people what I am struggling with so that I am not doing it alone.

It's a weird thing, trust. Being able to trust somebody enough to let them in and see the messy aspects of our lives. It also greatly impacts our faith. If I can't let others in, how am I supposed to let God in? And to be honest, most of my good friends realize when I am struggling, they are good enough friends to just be there with me and remind me I'm not alone in my struggle. 



Friday, June 28, 2013

Next...

A couple things about me...

1) I hate making decisions.
2) I hate it even more when somebody tells me what to do.

I am wrapping up stage 2 of my sabbatical.

Stage one was me going to Disney and spending time with my family. This entailed 24 hours driving from Decorah to Orlando, spending all day running around parks, eating too much, and trying not to lose my cool and begin screaming at people while waiting in line for the log ride. Seriously, I almost lost it. Luckily I was able to vent on my phone to my brother as opposed to actually yelling at people. Seriously, I don't think I have come that close to screaming at somebody in a really long time. Trying to stay calm in front of my son was not an easy task.

Stage 2 involved me leaving my family for 2 weeks and going to the Twin Cities for a time of visiting pastors, youth directs, and worship leaders about what they are doing to reach young adults and students in today's culture.

I was tasked by Tiger to do 3 things. 1) write down 3-5 bullet points so when somebody asks me about my sabbatical time, I can tell them things I learned, what it meant, etc. 2) Do a longer write up about both the practical and theoretical things I learned and how it has shaped me. 3) Send him a check paying him for his time.

While there are some things that are going to be easy to explain to people (i.e. how a lovely young woman spent time with me walking me through how to use vine, twitter, etc) and a few things that, well, will be much more difficult (day of renewal at the Urban Retreat). Even as I sit here, I have a bunch of different emotions going through me that I can't even explain.

So as I struggle to write this down, here is what I do know.

1) There are a wide range of people in the cities, from different denominations and theological backgrounds that are doing the best they can to live out their faith and reach out and share the gospel.

2) The churches, whether or not I agreed with their methodology or theology, I most admired were those who knew who they were and what they were called to do, let that drive everything they did in their church and community without apology.

3) Sometimes I need to sit back and give God a chance to talk.

I hope to use this blog in the next couple weeks to help me process some of what I experienced. Some will be ho hum, some will be interesting, and hopefully some will make you think I am a complete mess. At any rate, I need to do this to help me figure out the What? So What? and Now What of these past weeks...

Here is a video I will leave you with. Gungar is doing some amazing music that I really dig. Not sure why I typed dig. I always think of the line "Can you Dig it?". Good movie. Anyway, enjoy!