Category Archives: service

Running Boston in Boston

Yesterday I wrote about my running buddies Mike Johnson and Dan Foster running in the Boston Marathon.  Both finished, but Mike’s finish had something extraordinary.  One runner had collapse at the 26 mile marker, less than a quarter mile from the finish.  Four other runners helped him across the finish line; one of whom was Mike Johnson.   Mike is the runner in the neon yellow shirt in the tweet below.


Reminded me of the old Hollies hit, “He ain’t heavy he’s my brother.”  Way to go, Mike!

You can see the series of pictures of this finish at this link.



Family Mission Trip

This week I have a guest blogger, Tonya Bushard. Tonya is a friend and member of Resurrection Lutheran Church and she writes about her recent experience on a family mission trip.

Tonya writes,
We took our family service journey a little more local this year. Last year, the Bushard family went to Eagle Butte, SD to join about 40 others on a Youthworks multi-generational mission trip. We stayed on an Indian reservation. After a great first experience, two other families joined us for another. This time, we did a family mission trip in Superior, WI.

Mission Trip Bushard 13 3  The overall concept of these pre-planned mission trips is to spend ample time as a family and serve a broader community through various service projects. We stay overnight in a host church where we worship, eat and play with several other families from around the Midwest. This year, we assisted a nursing home with some outdoor landscaping chores, joined residents indoors at a nursing home to play games, helped our host church with their large monthly public food pantry and did a little painting at another church.

The daily service projects inspired us to brainstorm how we could go home and continue to serve in our own community. We have decided to build relationships 1 mile from our home at the local nursing home. We plan to attend their activity time to play cribbage or just stick around to chat with the residence. And we are also hoping to bring our lapdog, Coco, to help us serve.

Mission Trip Bushard 13 1The most rewarding piece of the trip for us is the combination of appreciation from those we served and watching the spirit of service grow in our children. Each of my children had a great experience of love and service.

Zoe, “The people at nursing home smiled when they saw us. They had fun playing trivia with us. I am excited to get to know some of the people at our nursing home.”

Alex, “I love playing games so going to the nursing home to play cribbage with the guys was fun. They were competitive like me.”

Zack, “I felt God sent me to play with the boys who lost their mom and had a sick dad. I made their week go by faster and they had fun.”

Mission Trip Bushard 13 2It is a great reminder of our blessings and Jesus’ call to help those in need. Our ability to immerse ourselves in service and fellowship by serving out-of-town is very unique and augments the overall experience; really brings it home. The youth and multi-generational trips are each four days. Our family mission trip was two days of service.

We were really happy to have two other families with us this year. We have such a great experience each year that we hope more and more families from Resurrection join in the opportunity in the coming years.

Toxic Charity?

Saturday I returned from a short-term mission trip to Denver with our youth. I was pumped by the diverse and intense experiences we had together serving the urban poor. I preached on how the week gave me a new perspective on prayer in yesterday’s sermon and how excited I am to see future mission trips.

Then this morning I read a short article in L Magazine titled: Toxic Charity. It is an excerpt from the book, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and How to Reverse It). In the article, Robert Lupton argues that many of the service projects that churches and nonprofits perform with good intentions are not really helping the needy. Americans work hard at serving others, but do rarely consider the outcomes of such service.

What is so surprising is that its outcomes are almost entirely unexamined. The food shipped to Haiti, the well we dig in Sudan, the clothes we distribute in inner-city Detroit — all seem like such worthy efforts. Yet those closest to the ground — on the receiving end of this outpouring of generosity — quietly admit that it may be hurting more than helping. How? Dependency. Destroying personal initiative. When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.

The article started me wondering about some of the service projects we assisted in Denver. One was the David Clifton Carpenter’s Cupboard, a food shelf in Wheat Ridge, CO. David Clifton was homeless for a time early in his life and had gone to churches for help. Afterwards he started a food shelf to help others like himself. But in my one day of service at his food shelf, I wondered if it was helping people transitioning out of poverty or was simply a “band-aid” that continued a cycle of dependency. From my limited observation it appeared that many families came every week for the free food.

Robert Lupton writes,

To be sure, not all charitable response is toxic . . .  But our compassionate instinct has a serious shortcoming. Our memory is short when our recovery is long. We respond with immediacy to desperate circumstances but often are unable to shift from crisis relief to the more complex work of long-term development. Consequently, aid agencies tend to prolong the “emergency” status of a crisis when a rebuilding strategy should be underway.

NewHabitatLogoOne agency that I believe has long-term development in mind is Habitat for Humanity. It seeks to transition people out of poverty by helping them move into home ownership. One of their mottos is “Not a handout, but a hand up.” Habitat home recipients must first complete 500 hours of “sweat equity” working on Habitat homes, complete a course on homeownership and sign a mortgage agreement that is not more than 1/3 of their income before receiving their home. Habitat is not toxic charity but transitional charity.

What do you think about charity and service for other?

Lord Jesus, teach us to love our neighbor in ways that honor you.

Sidewalk Sunday School


In college I went to an evening service for healing. I went with a friend expecting to pray for her health. But while I was there, I went forward for prayer myself. I asked the pastor to pray for my critical, skeptical thinking that often blocked my faith experience.

I remember his prayer. He asked for “the wings of my intellect to be folded, so that the Holy Spirit might soar within me.”

I have prayed that prayer frequently this week as five youth and I  serve at the Denver Metro Ministries.  Pastor John Gallegos and his team take their puppet ministry, songs and games, called
Sidewalk Sunday school, to various urban projects in Denver.  My team has helped working puppets and leading games.

My skeptical mind finds many parts of the ministry uncomfortable.  For example, competitive games and prizes are not my specific vision of Christian children’s ministry. The focus on “making a decision for Christ” runs counter to my focus on responding to  God’ s grace. Yet I have folded the wings of my intellect so that the Holy Spirit can soar.

The Spirit is soaring because Pastor John Gallegos and his team are there to share the love of Jesus. His team are dedicated to loving children who are forgotten by many in our society. They share the love of Jesus in song, puppets, food and word.  Week after week –spring, summer, and fall –they go to the very neighborhoods that many of us avoid.  The youth and I are blessed to serve with them.

Sidewalk Sunday School’s Bible verse this week is Proverbs 14:21, “Being kind to the needy brings happiness.”   Their kindness has brought each member of Resurrection’s team happiness.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your soaring Spirit.

Getting Off the Rails.

This month during worship at Resurrection we have used Psalm 95 as our call to worship. Verse seven states, “For he is our God, we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.”

Thus the picture above sparked my imagination. As God’s sheep, we sometimes wish that we had a clear direct path to our lives.   The railroad track is a set path that will not be moved easily. We want God to lay down our life’s tracks and make the path smooth without steep hills or broken rails. However rarely is our life so clearly defined and directed. And even when the rails are clear we may not be sure in which of the two directions to travel.

Upon further reflection, I am glad that my life is not set on such rails. Trains are great, but they are so limited in where they can go. They must follow the rails. As the sheep of God’s hand, we have a greater flexibility. After all Jesus told us that the Spirit of God (like the wind) blows where it will (John 3:8).

This week I am in the midst of experiencing how the wind of God blows. Last spring I planned to be heading north this week-end for a canoe trip in the BWCA. I scheduled a guest preacher and kept my calendar cleared. But last month the canoe trip was cancelled but I kept the guest preacher. Then two days ago I learned that the male chaperone for our youth mission trip had to cancel and the trip needed a replacement. So Thursday I am leaving, not for the BWCA, but for Denver to serve with our youth in a YouthWorks mission trip next week.

I will be writing more about the trip in coming posts. Right now I am thankful that my life in Christ is not set on some static rails, but has the flexibility to discover new paths. Like the sheep in the picture, I need to step away from the common track and set off on a new path of adventure.

Otherwise, I just might be smacked down by the oncoming freight train of routine.

Lord Jesus, guide me by your Spirit.

Habitat Joy

Jeremy at HabitatToday was fun. For the first time in a long while the Twin Cities had a full day of warm sunshine. I was able to enjoy it working outside on a Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity work site. Eight members of Resurrection Lutheran joined fourteen others on a new build at 522 Thomas Avenue in St. Paul, MN. We pounded nails, cut boards and lifted roof trusses. We ate pizza and drank lots of water. As I said, it was fun.

I had the opportunity to lead a short devotion before the work began. I centered it on the book of Nehemiah and their rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem after the exile. The people had become discouraged because their capital city was in chaotic disrepair. The most grievous symbol of that brokenness was their wall. For people of that time, a walled city was sign of protection and vitality.

IMG_20130613_090803We no longer need city walls for safety, but we still need to rebuild walls of shelter for others ins our city. The previous house at the Habitat site had become a drug haven and the city closed and condemned it. Now Habitat has the opportunity to rebuild and reclaim this neighborhood with a new home and enthusiastic homeowners. Though no homeowner has yet been selected for this home, I am confident that Habitat will select a family that will invest in their home and neighborhood.

My favorite verse from Nehemiah is “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I experienced that joy today working with others and so thankful that their joy gave me strength.

Work CrewLord Jesus, lets us rebuild our city with your joy, strength and peace.


Giving Perspective

Yesterday I preached on “What Happens When You Give.” I listed five things that happen when you give money to your congregation. Personally my favorite reason was #4, “When You Give You Gain Perspective.”

Mission JamaicaHave you ever met someone who went on a foreign mission trip? Those can be expensive.   Between food, airfare and supplies, someone could easily spend thousands of dollars traveling to another country to work with children or work on a house. I have traveled to Jamaica to help build homes for needy families and I know how expensive a trip can be.

But when these short-term missionaries return and talk, they use words like “incredible” and “life changing.” They talk about the experience like it was one of the most important things they’ve ever done, no matter what the cost may have been.

I’ve never met anyone that said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t raised all that money to go to Jamaica and help people…I would have rather used that money to buy an Iphone or laptop.”

You never hear that story because spending money on others in need feels right.  It gives us a new perspective on the values of life.

People often regret something they buy, but they rarely regret something they give to others.

Financial giving to your congregation gives you a new perspective on what it means to have and how rich you already are. You see your church not as a market that dispense religious goods for your benefit, but rather as a community where you are invested and connected. It is not about getting more stuff, but touching more lives for Jesus sake.

Money HeartJesus taught, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21.

I want my heart to line up with Jesus’ treasure. Giving to Jesus’ mission helps make that alignment real.

Thank you, Jesus, for investing in me. Help me to gain your perspective.

Sarah’s On the Bus

2000 SS Visit to Care CenterWhen I was called to Resurrection Lutheran Church two and a half years ago, the call committee had a key question for me, “how will you handle the present staff?” They were concerned that as the new lead pastor I might want to make immediate radical changes to the staff.  I told the call committee that I wanted first to discover the staff’s unique gifts and contributions to the congregation before any changes.

I quickly discovered that the staff was and is talented and dedicated. They each had something to contribute. Perhaps the most notable was the only other full-time employee, Sarah Storvick.

1998 VBSSarah started working at Resurrection part-time as the Director of Children’s Ministry in April, 1998, overseeing the Sunday School ministry. She brought great creativity and compassion to her work. She cared about each of the children who attended, calling them by name and encouraging their growth in grace. She coordinated Vacation Bible Adventure, First Communion instruction and Camp Wapogasset participation. Over the years her responsibilities grew and she has expanded into confirmation and adult ministries. She not only embraced the mission of calling all people to a Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ, but exemplified what the Vibrant Life looks like. She became a full-time employee in 2010 and was most recently commissioned as the Minister of Congregational Life.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins defines several key decisions an organization’s leader must make.  The first key decision is “who to keep on the bus.”

The executives who ignited transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it (Good to Great, p. 41).

The first thing the apostles did after Jesus ascended into heaven was to select who would take Judas’ place as one of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:12-26). They needed to determine who was on the bus of Jesus’ continued mission.

Sarahweb.jpgI am so thankful to have Sarah on the bus of Resurrection. Her steadfast commitment, her dry sense of humor, her compassion and vibrant faith all contribute so much to the ongoing mission of Resurrection. She has even gracious written for my blog when I was away. Tomorrow (Sunday, April 21) Resurrection will celebrate Sarah’s ministry during our Sunday morning worship. Thank you, Sarah, for faithfully serving our Lord Jesus among the people of Resurrection. We are blessed to have you in our midst.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the ministry of Sarah Storvick.

Faith in Action

Yesterday was Resurrection Lutheran Church’s annual Faith In Action Day. Over 200 volunteers worked on a wide variety of service projects. From making snack kits for children-in-need and kitchen packs for families in transitions to serving meals at local food shelters, we honored and celebrated one part of our mission statement: To Serve the world God loves. I wrote about my first experience with Faith In Action day here.

Preparing Sandwiches at Dorothy Day Center

Preparing Sandwiches at Dorothy Day Center

It was a day that both encouraged and humbled me as a pastor. I was extremely proud to see children, youth, and adults using their gifts, talents and dependable strengths to help their neighbor. I felt like a cheerleader, supporting all the good works. I was also humbled because I realized that so much of the good that members do does not require a pastor, but rather the power of the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful for the team of lay members, led by Terri Dokken, who coordinated the fifteen projects we worked on.

Earlier in the morning I preached on Ephesians 2, especially verse 10,

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Faith in A 2013 bIn my sermon, I talked about two kinds of good works. The first is the kind we experienced on Sunday, volunteer good works. As volunteers we do something directly to help our neighbor in need. We pack food at Feed our Starving Children or pound nails at Habitat for Humanity. These are valuable experiences where we learn about the needs of others and actually practice service in a tangible way. Plus it builds a sense of community and identity as old and new member work side-by-side.

Faith in A 2013But there is the second kind of good work, the daily good work, where we love our neighbor in our daily activity. A mom or dad who taxis the children to their daily activities, a nurse or doctor who treats patients, a social worker who aids families in caring for an aging parent: all of these can be considered good work. Some good works become our vocation or career. Hopefully as Christians we see our career as a way to serve others, either directly or indirectly. I have written regarding daily work on other posts: here and here.

Both volunteer and daily good works are valuable and productive. One of the values of volunteer work for youth and families is that it helps youth begin to discern their vocational callings, so that it can become “our way of life.”

Lord Jesus, help us to walk in the good works you have prepared for us.

Snow Days and Daily Bread

sleddingsnowblastwebYesterday was a snow day for many school districts in the Twin Cities area. The foot of snow was a fun excuse for many families to be outdoors, sledding on hills and building snow forts. Afterwards they could warm up with hot cocoa or bake fresh cookies.

But the school districts in Saint Paul and Minneapolis did not have snow day. Instead the buses took their time delivering these urban children to their school. I don’t know all the reasons they stayed open, but one of them was probably hunger. For many children in poverty, school is the one place where they are assured of getting a nutritious meal. According to Bread for the World, 16.2 million children struggle with hunger every day. You can learn more about hunger through the new documentary, “A Place at the Table.”

BreadAs a Christian I pray the Lord’s prayer daily. In it I pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” I am not simply praying, “Give me today my daily bread,” but for OUR daily bread. I am praying for my brothers and sister in Christ who need food today. After all the book of James cautions,

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2:14-17)

I am thankful for the efforts my congregation (and many congregations) who work to fed others. Efforts like the Cure Ministry that serves meals at East Emmanuel Lutheran in St. Paul and the Christian Cupboard that provides food to many families in the Woodbury area. But I sense that more can be done. What do you think?

Lord Jesus, give us today our daily bread, especially for the hungry children in our midst.