Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Joy of a Wedding Coordinator!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Questions About Worship

Today I went to chapel at Westmont College. I sat in the back of the gym and enjoyed good music, Ben Patterson's great leadership and an inspiring meditation from a local pastor. I was self-critiquing as we sang four songs at the beginning. The songs were both new, familiar and a very traditional hymn sung creatively.
The question I have for worship leaders is: how many times do you re-sing a song phrase? Growing up with word-dense hymns, we sang stanzas one time only and choruses/refrains between stanzas. Yet at chapel we sang some phrases 4 times. I like coming back to a phrase that is spiritually weighty, but then I reach a limit where I've said/sung what I needed to sing and desire to move on. Then, if the song keeps going, I find myself stopping and waiting for the song to end. Clearly there is a middle line of letting the Spirit lead and the Spirit move us along. Since we sing from screens without pages in hymnals, is the repeating a way of anchoring words into our memory (versus knowing where the hymn is in a book?).
The other question is why do we sing so many songs back-to-back? The reason I asked that is that I have forgotten the title and words to the second song we sang. They were all good songs/hymns, but it's like shopping for me; I can remember one or two items, but if it's three or more, I need a list because I forget them. Its the same with songs for me. Is that a reflection of my age and musical condition? Vocally I'm sure it's better to flow from one song into another because our vocal chords are warmed and loosened up.
I think the set of four or more songs is not so much to state spiritual truths in a literary manner but to set a spiritual mood in an emotional manner. Neither one is better than the other, but it's not always explicitly stated.
I am all the more grateful for Bob Gross, the Director or Worship Arts here at MCC. He and I rambled about this topic and he is helping to teach me what this generation expects, experiences and needs.
What a hoot!

Jesus On Worry

If I asked you for your favorite “worry topics” what would you say? I’ve been asking that informally this week as I’ve lived with the text for Sunday (Matthew 6:25-34). The answers have been most interesting:


Family crises

Getting things done on time, being on time, being short of time



Children’s development (grandchildren)



What would you add to this list? Jesus has an interesting approach to addressing worry that I am eager to share with you. While worry is real and, for some, debilitating. It is not God’s plan for us to live with worry. Worry is not meant to be part of the furniture of our lives.

One of the things I need to do is to thank you for allowing me this privilege of preaching and entering into a text like ours for this Sunday. It means I get to discover in newer and deeper ways what Jesus wants for me as follower and pastor. This has been a great week for me and I hope for you!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Charlie Becks' video in Wall Steet Journal

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Why do you do what you do? Why do you park in the certain place at church each week? Why do you choose the pew to sit in with such regularity? Why are you buying the same brand of toothpaste and eating at the same restaurants? Our behavior is a funny thing to look at. We get fixed and set in certain routines and traditions and never leave them, even when they are less than satisfying.
The texts for Sunday (Matthew 6:1-4, 19-21) help us take a look at the way we behave, the way we “practice our righteousness.” I found Jesus’ words to me as I studied and prepared overwhelmingly healing and hopeful. As you get ready for worship, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Why do I behave the way that I do?

2. Who is my audience? Who am I “playing” for?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Baptismal Refraction

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Teaching to Pray

I teach couples how to get married. I've officiated at over 300 weddings in my years as a pastor. I know what works and what doesn't. And if a couple trust me, we can, together, make a really wedding ceremony.
But sometimes I run into couples who know it all, know exactly what they want, change their minds several times, keep re-tweaking the ceremony on the rehearsal night and into the wedding, and make the entire event stressful. The common denominator among those couples is an unwillingness to be taught and to trust.
In Matthew 6; 5-15 the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. I don't know about you, but I know how I like to pray and I've become pretty accustomed to praying in a Don Johnson way. Yet they saw something in Jesus' prayer behavior that they knew was better, richer and deeper than theirs, so they asked him to teach them. I wonder if I'd ask the same question? I hope so. Teach me........

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Strategic Availability

I think it was Eugene Peterson who humorously (or sadly) described most pastors as "quivering masses of availability." Unfocussed, needing to be needed, solvers of other people's crises, reactive versus proactive, addicted to the urgent and neglecting the important.
In talking about this condition with a friend of mine, he challenged me to a third path; strategic availability. That means being open to interruptions but free to step away from busyness. It means keeping a part of my day, time, energy open to a new person, sometimes a contact that I initiate and sometimes not.

Preaching's Mystery

William Willimon did it again in his article in the recent Christian Century called "Voice Lessons." He navigates the divine mystery of being called to preach a word from the Lord vs teaching, sharing what's on your heart, facilitating a discussion, or lecturing.
It's on Wednesday mornings like this, bulletin draft sent, songs being chosen, texts in place, and theme ready, that I wonder: "What do you want me to say Lord?" And then comes the rumbling!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Prayer of Thanks...for hands

One of my assignments for the Midwinter Conference was to write a number of prayers. One of which was for people who have been instrumental in our lives. So I got the image of the multitude of hands that have brought us from one place to the next over our years and wrote the prayer below. Several people have asked for it, so here it is for you to use as you wish.

Thank you Lord for those hands, those hands that carried us as babies, those hands that washed us and fed us, played with us and comforted us. Thank you Lord for those hands that led us across streets and down new school hallways. Thanks Lord for those hands that taught us how to hold musical instruments or sports equipment, those hands that propped up tippy bicycles or shaped ours around a basketball. Thanks Lord for those hands that welcomed us into church and opened Bibles to the right verses. Lord we are grateful for hands that illustrated your truths on blackboards and easels, notepads and restaurant napkins. Thank you O God for the hands that wrapped themselves around us when we prayed, confessed, committed and accepted. Lord we have been touched by so many good, blessed hands. We did not get here by ourselves, but have been led hear over the years by the hands of your servants.

Now Lord use our hands in the same way. Use our hands to bless, to comfort, to lead and to guide. Use our hands to encourage new believers and to bless exhausted disciples. Make our hands instruments of your heart and will. Put names in our hearts right here and right now of those who need your touch through us. Lord, we give you our hands in and through the name and hands of Jesus. Amen

Jesus' Expectations for the Church

I was in Chicago all week for the Covenant Midwinter Conference. Martha and I flew in Saturday morning and I agreed to stay till Friday morning. By Wednesday, during the snowstorm, I was so ready to come home. I like these gatherings, but I like home more. I like the beg tent, but I love the local church!

So I left a wee bit early Friday, skipping the final breakfast. I got to the airport earlier than my 1:00 p.m. flight, hoping to get bumped to an earlier flight. It’s something I’ve done regularly over the years. If there is an open seat on an earlier flight, that opens up my seat for the airline to sell on a later flight; win-win!

Wrong! The gate agent said that they would be happy to put me on a stand-by list for an earlier flight for $50! In their relentless search for revenue streams, the airline I flew (nameless here) now charges $50 for me to solve an empty seat problem and allow them to sell my seat!

I declined their offer and spent the morning at O’Hare airport, tucked into a corner with lots of coffee, my Bible and computer. So it was not a lost morning, but changed. The bottom line for me was a change in expectation. What I normally expected from the airline changed! What I expected to happen did not happen. What they expected from me (to pay more money) also did not happen. And I’m sure over the coming years, traveling expectations will change several more times.

So what are your expectations for church? As you prepare to worship at MCC (or wherever you live) on Sunday, what are you expecting? Good music? Hot coffee? Solid children’s and youth ministry? Friends to welcome you? A sermon to keep your interest?

We are pretty good at registering our satisfaction level regarding our expectations. Our culture’s endless surveying has helped us express how satisfied we are at services and products we consume. The question for Sunday is what are Jesus’ expectations of you as a member of the body of Christ? We will be exploring Matthew 5:21-48 & Matthew 7:1-5 to get a glimpse of what Jesus expects of our life together in the church.

FOX response?

FOX TV creates a lot of good shows in addition to their admitted conservative bent with Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, etc. That's OK because it needs to balance MSNBC in the national dialogue (screaming match?) about values and directions.
But I did find it curious that it would reject the "John 3:16" ad that was creatively put together just for the Superbowl by the Fixed Point Foundation. How is it that we have no compunction about selling beverages that are bad for you, food that will clog your arteries, and jiggling "Go-Daddy" ads for I'm not sure what, but when it comes to creatively putting the message out there about faith....hands off! I guess the world is really more afraid of what Jesus has to say than it dares to admit.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Kelly on the camera

You all know about the Chicago snow storm. Something wonderful happened tonight because of it. Normally Wednesday night is the "free night" at the Midwinter for pastors to head off to concerts, sports events, long dinners with friends or to work on sermons. But since so many things were cancelled, the worship leadership offered a pretty spontaneous prayer concert.

Luke and the tech team decided to stream it live like the other nights. Now a live-streaming concert of prayer sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry. Luke drafted his wife Kelly to be the sole camera operator. It was a moving concert for me, interceding for all our Egyptian friends in Cairo.

But what happened was the stream back of prayer requests to the tech team here from all over the country, over 70. Paul Lessard, who acted as prayer leader, at the end instructed us to re-gather and pray for those requests that came in from Covenant friends during the evening. A full circle!

Ten snowplows

This is the view out my hotel room window from which I have been posting pictures of the weather. Just as I was talking on the phone I saw this caravan of snowplows coming off interstate on the exit ramp. I counted them, ten in a row, each one indented further into the snowbank so that when the tenth truck passed by, they pushed snow back 8-10 feet from where the first truck met it. That's coordinated driving!

On tithing & generosity

Christianity Today has a great composite article reflecting on why the Evangelical Church is so far off the mark from its tithing base. Good food for thought.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Kris Causton and Lindsay Small captured out attention this morning with this silly introduction to the Covenant Church

Luke at video

Luke's boss (Josh) and his wife went to the hospital today ahead of the storm to prepare for the birth of their first child. That meant that Luke was given a baptism of fire on working the cameras for the Midwinter. It was fun to see him work the various cameras, stationary and mobile.

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