Category Archives: pastor

Sabbath was Good

Burntside - north armj

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10) is often cited and for a good reason.  We need to let quiet and breaks from our routine bring space in our lives to be refreshed and to hear God speak again.  We had a great time up in Boundary Waters country.  Company, food, conversation, food, cards, food, skiing, did I mention food? was wonderful.  It was really cold, (high was -3, and typical temps were -25 to -15) but it was beautiful!  And there is something about being in the boreal forest of the north that makes the temps not nearly so cold.  I’d take -20 up there over 0 in the city anytime.  But then being the gimp I spent all my time by the woodstove anyway…

The picture is looking out from the sauna over the North Arm of Burntside Lake.  The little ice wall is built from the ice cut from the hole made for people to dip into the lake from the sauna.  At night (when we perform this crazed ritual) a kerosene lantern sits there, competing with the moon for providing illumination.  The rectangular spot of snow in the right foreground is the “door” covering the hole, snow piled on top, to keep the ice from forming too thickly during the day.  Remember, it’s 20 below zero.

If you look in the distance there is a little island 300 yards or so away.  it is a white lump against the trees on the horizon towards the right.  The teens got daring this year and multiple dips and snow angels in the snow to beat the sauna heat wasn’t enough, so they dashed all the way to the island and back wearing only their, well, you know…

Find a sabbath everyday.  Don’t wait for the big trips.  Let quiet break in for a short time everyday, and for a minute or two every hour.

Rest

Quick note to say I’m off to the Upper Arm of Burntside Lake, northwest of Ely, MN.  Our family is joining a couple of other families we have done this with for many years.  We get a rustic barn of a cabin where we share great food, drink, recreation and conversation.  It is adjacent to the BWCA so the ski trails meander through that wilderness.  For me it is a much needed break from always being “on” with my job and calling.  A time to allow my mind and heart to do some rumination and hopefully find some illumination.

The news on my ankle isn’t good (I now have an appointment with a surgeon…)  so I’ll be keeping the fire company while everyone else X-C skis in the sub-zero temp.  But the sauna and polar bear dip should still be within my grasp.

May each of us deliberately find a time each day, and a day each week, and retreat each year, when we are still and let God be God.

Peace!

Spiritual Manipulation

I had a great conversation yesterday with a ‘jacob’s-well-checker-outer.’ He represents people whom I love to talk to because they are searching and critically discerning at the same time. They bring hope and skepticism to the table simultaneously. I see a lot of me reflected in such people.

One of the things we talked about is the danger of manipulation of people by religious organizations. There are certainly enough examples of it – Jonestown in Guyana comes to mind, but that is the extreme. The danger of manipulation comes from people allowing another person to tell them what to do or think. What happens at church can certainly fall into that category; people come looking for a ‘Word from God,’ and the leaders, often a pastor, offers to supply that Word.

Do I manipulate people? I want to say no, and I can confidently say that I never do it intentionally for purposes that are self serving, but that is where I have to ask just what the difference is between manipulation and inspiration. It is the church’s job to open people’s hearts, to lead them places they wouldn’t go otherwise, to touch their emotions. Is that manipulation? Is the difference between inspiration and manipulation the motivation behind it? After all, to manipulate literally means to alter something manually, with an intentional act. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t try to create that nexus between God and people andso that something happen there.

In my message tomorrow as part of our High Definition Living series I am talking about “God’s HD Signal” (forgive the comparison…). God’s ‘signal’ or message is different from others because of how much ‘bandwidth’ it holds, that is, how comprehensive it is in addressing all aspects of our lives. I’ll mention Jesus’ Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength.” God wants to get into every nook & cranny of us, and make us different.

I don’t want people to ever feel manipulated, but I do want people to feel moved – by God, through me, and the music, the community, the environment, everything. I guess we need to demonstrate transparency, ask people to not be passive receivers but to engage in the process, to test out what they experience at Jacob’s Well. And I need people to trust me. I know that I need to earn that trust. I don’t expect it to be given me just because I am ‘the pastor’ or the person up front. If anything, I see those things as barriers to gaining people’s trust because it removes me from their experience. I also need to ask people to risk. To be willing to be vulnerable to God’s work through our worship experiences and other places in their lives – not to turn off their brains or to live in a fantasy world, but to dare to see and experience things in a way in which they aren’t in control.

What are you looking for here?

I started this blog to make myself write down some of the things I am thinking about, the idea that someone might read it was a bonus. The idea that someone might read it and find it helpful was a dream. The surprise is that a lot of people are reading. Yikes!

So, here’s my question… are you from Jacob’s Well and curious? Are you a church leader that I have worked with somewhere? Someone from one of the conferences I’ve taught? Have you just run into my blog somehow? No matter who you are and why you are checking out this site, what are you looking for? I’d love to hear.

Are you a:

– a church launcher wondering about what we are trying out or dreaming about or learning from at Jacob’s Well…

– a preacher wondering about our worship series or creative arts process…

– a God-follower curious about my theological ideas or musings…

– a fellow precarious person who wants to know more about living the vulnerable life of faith…

Let me know… thanks!

One Year Old & 1st Sunday Evening Gathering

what-if.gif

What if people actually came to our new service?

All I can say is that it feels a lot better being on this side of the launch of our evening service than on the other side. We launched as a community on September 17 of 2006 and today we added a service at 6 pm. We need the space, and we have heard from many who work Sunday mornings (stats say 30% of working adults are working on Sunday!) and others who have never had a “go to church” tradition find getting around to do anything on Sunday morning is an obstacle. Then there are the people who are gone for the weekend and can be back for an evening service.

Anyway, today was it. Not a smashing success in terms of numbers (68 in the Commons Room Gathering) but the spirit was alive and it felt very positive. We had quite a few people who had never been part of Jacob’s Well before, who loved the gathering and were thrilled that an evening service like this was available to them.

I think our total for the day was nearly 300, so that is pretty amazing. But it was really a lot of work. And we have a long, long way to go.

Thanks to all the people who have worked tirelessly to make this happen. If I try to name you all I’ll forget some. I know there were people I didn’t even recognize in some roles today. That is incredible. Thanks everyone! Soli Deo Gloria.

“What if…?” ==>> “Why not…?”

As a pastor I do a lot of writing. Sometimes I learn more by what comes out when my pen starts messing around with thoughts than I ever intended. I like that.

That’s what happened with “What if…?” (our current theme at Jacob’s Well) for me. The typical church and human response to “what if…?” is to control it. “What if” threatens status quo. But God loves possibility and relies on our “what ifs” to help explore them. Rather than dismissing or discouraging them, perhaps God likes to say, “Why not?”

I don’t suppose that God wants to meet just any “what if” with a “why not,” but we might be surprised at how many God might be willing to work with. That’s the point after all. God doesn’t just let them go by, God gets involved, and with God involved there isn’t a lot that isn’t worth trying.

Friday morning sabbath

Fridays are the closest thing I have to a Saturday. Being a pastor means that weekends are work time. But when things are relatively caught up (and ‘relatively’ is the operative term because there is always more that ‘could be done,’ if not ‘should be done’) Fridays can be a little slower. I spent the morning out on the back porch, enjoying the birds, the air and a couple of homemade Americanos with my wife, Kris, talking about impending school stuff,  reading the paper, and pulling together loose ends of our service on Sunday at Jacob’s Well. Basically, mulling over and making sense of the different parts of my world, and doing it at the speed of life.

I’ve been getting a lot of input recently from many and various sources to make sure I have a sabbath (day of rest) each week. My question is “Why not two? Isn’t that what a weekend is?” But for now, one will have to do; I’m not very good at even taking that. A weekly sabbath isn’t just a nice idea, it’s essential. One of the deadliest enemies of a pastor is pumping out of the well when you aren’t putting anything in.  I can’t imagine it is different for anyone.

So today there are a few tasks to take care of, but I spent the morning watching the dew shine on the grass, watching chickadees, cardinals, goldfinch and grosbeaks working over our feeders, sparrows washing in the bath, squirrels making the leap from the birch to the silver maple. I’ve still got the State Fair to go to this evening, a run around Lake Nokomis and some time with my family ahead. I think I’ll be ready for what’s next.

The point isn’t what I do on my sabbath, or even how long it is exactly, but what I don’t do and how open what I’m not doing allows me to become.  To stop, or even pause, is a first step to unlearning.  It permits different questions, priorities, perspectives to arise.  It walks around the inside of the box I live in most of my week and kicks at the walls, almost always opening windows in some of them.  I suppose it is pretty hard to not live in a box of some sort as long as there are windows to see out of.

Puts a whole new spin on “Honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy.”     Exodus 20.8

Why ‘precarious’?

Why ‘precarious’? Well, I’m a sailor. I don’t get to sail too often, but it is a passion for me and the main way I get to sail is by taking groups out. I took what I love to do most and made a ministry out of it at the church I served. If you’ve ever wandered through a marina you have noticed the wide range of names of boats, each reflecting something about the owner. With that in mind we ask everyone on our trips, “If you were a sailboat on the journey that is your life, what would the name of that boat be?” For me the name was obvious, my boat is The Precarious.

To be precarious is to be on the edge of what is safe, risk-free, known. I know all my life isn’t lived on the margins, but my calling is to go there and explore them, to discover what God is up to out there where many are unwilling to go.

One of the fun things about being precarious is that it isn’t only full of possibility, but it wakes people up. People step aboard with a little (or a lot) of fear and trepidation. By joining the journey they’ve made a few important decisions; they will trust me on the journey of discovery, and they aren’t expecting status quo.

I’m also a pastor. It isn’t just an occupation. It is who I am – my wife and kids are painfully aware of this, I think. This blog is intended to be the truth of my precarious journey as a pastor. This isn’t the path of making sure everything works out, so my posts will contain as many “won’t do that again’s” as it will “wow, that worked great’s.” What being precarious does is open me up to God’s promise which is the verse I cling to more than any other…

The power of God at work within us can accomplish abundantly far more than we can ever ask or imagine. Ephesians 3.20 (my version)

Thanks for reading.