Tag Archives: family

Thanksgiving 2016

This year I am grateful for

My family which continues to grow

Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom, where I serve as Interim Pastor.

My running buddies who also like to drink coffee

For hiking trails and  hiking friends

For the gifts of worship and centering prayer

For the simple joy of being alive in Christ.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

For what are you grateful?

Wedded To a Faithful Grand

Today Carolyn and I celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary.  I wrote about our romance a couple of years ago here. Though we have had our share of struggles, she continues to bring joy and love into my life.

Family Selfie

Family Selfie

One place where Carolyn excels is in her love of family, our children and grandchildren.  When our children were younger, she set aside her career as a pastor to give time and opportunities for our children, Jonathan, Suzanne and Christina.  She made sure our children had the best overall educational opportunities for each child, using a combination of public schools, private schools, public charter school and home schooling to provide the best learning environment for each of our three children.  She served as an informal college guidance counselor as each child flew from the nest to out-of-state colleges.

Grandparents and GrandkidsNow with two grandchildren, she has embraced her new role as “Grand” (grandmother) .  I know people who struggle or even reject the title of grandparent, since they see it as a sign of aging.  Carolyn has embraced her role, savoring every opportunity to interact with Jack and Grace.  I am so thankful that we are able to share in this honor together as grandparents and her devotion continues to teach and inspire me.  She sees this as part of her calling from God, to share the wonder of Jesus Christ with our children and grandchildren.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.  (2 Timothy 1:5)

Lord Jesus, thank you for Carolyn.

Family, Business or Army?

This past Sunday Resurrection Lutheran Church had its annual meeting. The meeting is stipulated in our constitution so that we can conduct the business of the church: review and pass a budget, elect officers and hear staff reports. On the surface this can seem fairly dry. Yet beneath the surface, vital vibrant ministry is going on.

For example, the discussion of the budget is really a question of stewardship and priorities. Where do we as a congregation want to invest ourselves? How does the stewardship of our physical church building compare with our stewardship of our outreach and mission in the world?

The Family of God gathers at the Table

The Family of God gathers at the Table

Many people compare the church to a FAMILY, which can be helpful metaphor. We are brother and sisters in Christ (Mark 4:34). As a family we care for each other and support each other in time of need. In a family, the focus is often on the most vulnerable, the “weakest” such as a our children or infirmed. Love is central to a good family.

Stewardship involves opening our wallets

Stewardship involves opening our wallets

But the church is not simply a family. Another valid metaphor is the church is a BUSINESS.  It has finances to raise, property to maintain, staff to hire, and budgets to negotiate. We have constitutions and bylaws to uphold. One thing to remember is that this is a “business” ultimately owned by God; we are stewards or overseers who manage God’s resources for God’s purposes. “It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (I Cor. 4:2). As stewards, we are called to examine the finances as God’s money. Trust is key to good business. 

Feed My Starving Children has unique "helmets" for service

Feed My Starving Children has unique “helmets” for service

But there is a third priority: mission. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Here the metaphor is that the church is like an ARMY, charging forward into a broken, dangerous world to bring the light of God. The church is not simply a country club that enjoys each other company, nor a business that has a balance budget. The church has a mission to carry God’s message of love, grace and justice out into a world that is broken and hurt.  Preparing meals for overseas shipment at Feed My Starving Children is one place our Army serves.  Courage is vital to mission.

At Resurrection we describe that mission as calling all people to a vibrant life of faith in Christ.

In a healthy congregation, all three -family, business, army- compete for attention. Some members are clamoring for more dollars spent on caring and educating our members (especially our children and youth). Others are sharpening their pencil to make sure we are not spending beyond our means and that we are being good stewards of our resources. And others will be pointing out the door, wondering how we will become God’s hands and feet in God’s mission for the world. We need all three to converse to function well.

Our annual meeting is the opportunity to have that conversation: how we are fulfilling our mission, managing our finances and caring for one another?

Which metaphor (family, business, army) is your passion?

Lord Jesus, empowers us to work together for your kingdom.

Next: How Worship links all three.

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.

Family of God

I am away with Family Camp at Camp Wapo near Amery, WI. Nearly a dozen families, many with young children, came to share time together. Even though I made the journey alone, I was immediately swept up into games of hide and seek, yarn introductions and campfire songs. Though threatening thunder storms cut our campfire short, we still enjoyed a crazy camp skit and plenty of snacks.

HeidemannThis morning the families participated in a family devotional scavenger hunt. They followed clues to various hidden scripture boxes scattered around the camp. Each scripture box had a Bible verse they read and a short activity related to it. For example, they read about God creating human being, by breathing into the man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). The children then blew bubbles as a way to think God’s breath/spirit in their life.

JensensI took advantage of the Bible activity based on Matthew 11:28. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” I took a short nap.

Saturday afternoon families are enjoying the beach, taking pontoon boat rides and playing in the gaga pit. It is a chance for children to play together and adults to have relaxing conversations. The sun even poked its head out from the clouds.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples when his family sought him out.

Then Jesus’ mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” Mark 3:31-35.

At family camp and on Sunday morning Resurrection lives out the sense of being family together. We are brothers and sisters one to another when we do the will of God. I came to family camp alone, yet I am surrounded by family.

Thanks be to God.

Thankful Lips

Lips will be active this week. Smiles will break out as distant families reunite for Thanksgiving.  A big part of the day is the feast that we enjoy with our lips, tongues, mouth and stomachs. Yet it is also a time for us to speak words of thanks to God and others using our lips as the means for such expressions.

All Smiling Lips at the Harvest Festival

The reason “Lips” are my focus is the scripture text that we had in worship yesterday. In Isaiah six, the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God, gloriously enthroned in the heavens. The prophets heard angelic beings rock the temple with their thunderous song, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” As the prophet experienced this vision, he realized his own sinfulness and cried, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

I am struck that Isaiah focused on his “unclean lips.” He might have said “unclean heart,” if his will and emotions were sinful. Or he might have said “unclean hands,” if his actions were the center of his sin. But he centers on the lips and thus the words he and his people have used to betray and deny God. I think of my own “unclean lips” when I profess my utter trust in God in worship but then walk into the world and deny him by the words I use at home or the office. Like Isaiah, I am guilty of “unclean lips” that do not express God’s love and faithfulness on a consistent, daily basis.

Yet the good news in Isaiah six is that our lips can be cleansed. An angelic seraph used a live coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips, cleansing him of sin and guilt. The coal symbolizes the burning love of God that cleans, forgives and restores us. With God’s forgiveness, our lips can become trumpets to declare God’s faithfulness and love.

Yesterday at worship, I showed a short humourous video from Igniter Media that captured how our lips can be changed this Thanksgiving. A preview of the video is here.  As we gather for thanksgiving, may we truly give thanks to God and listen to each other.

How will you use your lips this week?

Lord Jesus, may my lips declare your praise.

Grandpa Value

In my last post, I reflected on a visit by my four siblings and the value of family. The day I posted my reflections, a new family value entered my life: my first grandchild was born.

I grew up without any grandfather in my life. My mother’s father died when she was a child and my grandmother never remarried. My father’s father lived in a distant state and for various reasons had little contact with our family. There is one old picture of me stiffly standing next to my grandfather, but I have no memory of the visit. So I no direct experience of grandfathering.

Jonathan and FarFar

But I did see how my father loved his grandchildren. Even though he and my mother were in distant Washington state, they made frequent trips to Minnesota to see their three grandchildren. My son, Jonathan, got the special attention since he was bit older and they shared a definite love of baseball and any outdoor activity. They camped and hiked together, enjoying the wonder of God’s creation.  Jonathan loved his FarFar (Norwegian for “Father’s Father).

When my father entered hospice care for cancer, it was Jonathan, age eight, who wanted to travel with me for his final days. As he sat by his grandfather’s bed, Jonathan told him about how the baseball season was progressing and especially how Ken Griffey, Jr. was playing. His deep abiding love for his FarFar survives to this day.

As I held my new grandson Tuesday, waves of emotions and thoughts rolled over me. Jack Keller is Jonathan’s son. I marveled at the wonder and beauty of a new-born child. I thought about the years to come: taking Jack camping and hiking, perhaps even running in a road race with Jack and Jonathan someday. At a deep level I felt my Dad’s memory and his joy in holding Jonathan some 26 years ago.

David, Robert, Jack, Jonathan, and John KellerMy brothers and sisters were able to see and hold Jack before scattering. As my brother Robert held Jack he expressed what many of us felt. “I feel like crying; this is so special and unique.” Family continues to hold value, from generation to generation. After all, God created us to be connected through the generations.

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. (Exodus 34:6-7)

Lord Jesus, thank you, thank you, thank you, for each new generation.

Family Value

The word “family” can evoke a spectrum of emotions. For many, family means intimacy and love, hugs and kisses. For others it means consistency and routine, the “same old , same old.” For others, family means animosity and detachment, arguments and conflict. Though we live in a society that declares the intrinsic value of family, we are not always sure how that is lived in our own lives.

I am the second of five children. My parents moved from Minnesota to Washington State when I was a year old. Our family had no close relatives within five hundred miles for the first ten years of my life. Our family holidays were simply mom, dad and my four siblings. We had some good neighbors and church friends but they were not true “family.”

Mom, David, Kathleen, Rob, me, Kris

My childhood memories are a mixed bag. I remember many wonderful meals at holidays and camping trips to the ocean. Dad coached my soft-ball team and mom came to my grade school basketball games and school plays.  We attended church together and prepared for Christmas with family advent candle devotions.

I also remember “running away” from home because I did not get my way. Mom even helped me pack a snack for my small bicycle. I pedaled down the street, only to return by 4PM so I could watch my favorite childhood TV show. I probably caused more trouble at home than any of my siblings, creating fights and arguments over trivial matters. After college, I married and moved back to Minnesota to attend seminary. Like my parent before me, I was a thousand miles from any “family” except for my wife and three children.

Kathleen, David, Kris, Mom, and Rob

This week my childhood “family” is reunited. My brother from Atlanta, my sister and brother from the Seattle area and my sister from Kodiak Island, Alaska are visiting Minnesota to celebrate my mother’s 87th birthday. She moved back to Minnesota a couple of years ago due to her increasing dementia; her recent falls now means she is in a skilled nursing care facility near my church. Prior to their coming, I wondered how my siblings and I would interact without the “social lubricant” of children or vacation activities that normally fill our brief times together. What would we do when mom was napping or asleep?

I have been pleasantly surprised at how we quickly we have become “family” again. We listen as we talk around the dinner table, laugh as we play a board game together, cheer for the Seattle Seahawks football team, and enjoy the latest James Bond movie. We are discussing how best to handle mom’s future and preparing to enter new stages of life as grandparents or retirees. I have not felt any need to “run away” during their visit. After all we are family.

What does family mean for you?

Lord Jesus, continue to teach me how to love those closest to me.

Mother’s Day

Sylvelin Keller with her brother Jerry

Tomorrow will be only the second time in the last thirty years that I will actually be with my mom on Mother’s Day.  Last July she moved back to Minnesota after living in Washington state for over fifty years.  Her dementia had progressed to the point where she could not live alone in her house in Bremerton.   She now lives in a memory care unit in Woodbury, near Resurrection Lutheran.

It is easy for me to focus on the losses her dementia present.  Every time I take her out of her apartment for even a few hours, she becomes anxious, wondering when she will go back to her house in Bremerton.  She will frequently comment that she is so confused, unable to remember the lunch she ate fifteen minutes ago. “I am a hopeless case.”

But joy still breaks through. She smiles whenever she sees a photography of her grandchildren, especially her newest (and only) great-grandchild. She proudly exclaims, “You know what his name is?  Troy VINCENT!”  (Vincent was the name of my father, who died in 1995.)   She also remembers that I am at a new church, Resurrection Lutheran, and that my son’s fiancé is named Maggie.   Deeper emotions seem to make for deeper, more lasting memories.

Her dementia has cause some moments of humor. I had to take her out to sign some papers a month ago.  At the lawyer’s office, she had to sign and date several documents.  Each time she dated the document, April 7, she turned to me and with a big smile said, “That’s your birthday, isn’t it?  Happy Birthday!”   She must have dated six document that morning and each time she wished me Happy Birthday, as if it were the first time. The lawyer got rather tired of it, but I beamed each time she said it.  I flashed back to all the special birthday cakes and parties she gave me as a child.

I don’t know how many birthdays or Mother’s Days I will share with my mom.  Each will be a gift from God.  May your Mother’s Day be filled with joy, hope and loving memories.

Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8