Tag Archives: Jesus

Create in Me a Right Spirit of Gratitude

A favorite prayer of mine is a simple request: Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Based on Psalm 51:10-12, the sentence starts a piece of the Lutheran liturgy which continues to echo in my soul. The short hymn was sung as the offering was presented.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation
and uphold me with your free Spirit.

A key way for the Lord to renew a right spirit within me is through gratitude. I confess that I can slip into periods of fear and distrust, when I am closed to God’s Spirit. The right Spirit of God is one of thanksgiving for many, many, many blessings that shower around me. A practice for me at Thanksgiving is to start a list of gratitude.

The_Risen_Lord by artist He QiThe gift of Jesus and his eternal love and grace for me.

The gift of life in which I live, and breathe and have my being.

The gift of creation where beauty and wonder surrounds me each day.

Jack Baptism Fam

The gift of family who love, encourage and support me in my calling.

The gift of God’s family where we can experience God’s love and joy.

The gift of God’s Word that promises vibrant life in Christ.

The gifts of baptism and communion where God’s Word penetrates and enriches our world.

group Bible AdventureThe gift of Resurrection Lutheran Church where I am called to do what I love.

The gift of families who energetically enter into the life of Christ.

The gift of worship where I can sing God’s praise and enjoy being a child of God

The gift of many children in worship who love to share Jesus in special ways.

Droid 2010 066

The gift of friends who run beside me in the race of life, even on the craziest of winter days.

For what are you thankful?

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Lord of my Life.

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Waiting for Patience

Patience does not come easy.

MN Public Radio Picture

MN Public Radio Picture

As I watch another April snow shower blanket my Minnesota home and as I struggle to rehabilitate a sprained ankle, I realize how impatient I am. I yearn to be where I am not. I want quick fixes and instant answers. I want to run NOW. I want spring NOW.

Yet inside I hear a different voice calming my restless heart, a true voice calling me to wait patiently.

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings life eagles. They shall run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).

Waiting is not a virtue in our American society. We hate waiting in lines, waiting for an event to start, waiting for a spouse to arrive, waiting for leaders to act. We think waiting is for wimps. After all we want ACTION heroes, not WAITING heroes.

Yet the Bible is filled with stories of waiting. Abraham and Sarah waited decades for the birth of a son. David waited years to become king. Israel waited centuries for a Messiah. When Paul begins his great description of love in I Corinthians 13, the first descriptor is “love is patient” (I Cor. 13:4).

As I listen to that inner, calming voice to wait, I realize that many things are at work. God’s Spirit is active, breathing new life into my spirit. I learn to live in the present moment, to be awake and at peace. These moments of awareness are intermittent; l slip back into self-pity. Still I wait, remembering an Objibway proverb,

Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky.

Spring will eventually come. I will at some point run again. But for now I wait on the Lord.

Lord Jesus, I wait with you.

Palm Sunday

The Mount of Olives outside of Jerusalem

As Jesus was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:37-41)

Are you a follower who shouts Hosanna or a stone-cold skeptic that keeps your mouth shut? Or a stone that longs to sing?

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see you as your truly are, the Prince of Peace.

Unplugged Friday

Lent emphasizes spiritual disciplines. For example, Christians are encouraged to “give something up” for Lent as a way to make room for God. Fasting has been a spiritual practice for centuries. People forsake food (either totally or some favorite like chocolate or coffee) for a period of time so that they can more intentionally focus on loving God and loving the neighbor.

This Lent I am modifying the practice of fasting to being  “unplugged.” I plan to disconnect from all forms of computerized information on Fridays during Lent. No e-mail, no Facebook, no blog, no texting on Friday, my normal day off.  I plan to use the time for prayer, reading and reflection. A colleague of mine, Rich Melheim, is recommending a techfast  breakfast, staying unplugged each morning.  Such practices could also strengthen our creativity.

Jon Burg wrote on his blog regarding our need to unplug,

You, me and everyone else in the room knows that when you are answering emails on your mobile you aren’t really present. Your kids know it. Your co-workers know it. Your clients know it. Your spouse knows it. You know it. I’ve come to terms with this in my own life.

But I recently had a deeper insight. When I am always plugged-in to a device, I am not really present in my own life. I don’t enjoy my life as much when I live in the half-present. Not only does constant connectivity lessen my enjoyment of life, it distracts me from achieving the creative goals I set out for myself. The brain needs mindless time to reflect. This is why we come up with our best ideas in the shower.

A Bad Idea?

A Bad Idea?

I guarantee that if there were a tv screen in the shower, we would draw less inspiration from the shower experience. Who knows what major works of art, creativity and innovation would be lost.

You can read his whole article here

Part of the Lenten tradition of 40 day is based on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, a time of fasting and prayer, (Luke 4:1-2). I am pretty sure Jesus was also “unplugged” the whole time.

What spiritual practices are you embracing this Lent?

Lord Jesus, guide me into deeper devotion to you.

Microwave or Crockpot?

This Sunday the gospel text will center on Jesus’ call of his first disciples (John 1:35-42). I am amazed at how quickly the first disciples responded to the call to follow Jesus.  They expressed no hesitation or reluctance.  In all four gospel  they immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus.  Their instant faith surprises me.

Are you like a microwave?

Several  years ago Pastor John Hogenson introduced me to the concept that some people are like microwaves, others are like crock pots.   He was not referring to their taste in foods, but to their speed in making decisions.   Some people are quick to process information and make decisions.  They see the opportunity and take it right away.   People may see the microwavers as courageous and decisive while others see them as brash and reckless.  I think many of Jesus’ disciples were like microwaves.  The best example may be Peter when later he asked to join Jesus in walking on the water (Matt 14:28-29).

Or like a crock pot?

Other people may be more like a crock pot.  They need time to process information before they make a decision. They want to “sleep on it” before they discern the proper couse of action. They may appear methodical or sluggish to others.  Over the years, I have learned that I am more like a crock pot (not to be confused with crackpot!) than a microwave.   I do eventually decide, just not immediately.  I struggle with the quickness of the disciple’s embrace.   I identify more with Moses and his hesitation at the burning bush (Exodus 3).  

Whether you are a microwaver or a crockpotter, all of us are called to respond to Jesus’ call eventually.   To push the analogy, we need to “get plugged in” to the true source of power so that we can “serve the meal.”  We need to trust in Jesus and discover our specific call in God’s kingdom.   All of us have a role to play, whether in a hurry or in time.

What image or analogy would you use to creatively describe your spirituality?

Graceful Dancing

Yesterday afternoon I took a walk with my mom from her apartment through the skyways to Woodbury’s YMCA.  We stopped for a few moments to watch an aerobic’s class in session.  After a couple of minutes I discovered that it was a Zumba fitness class that utilizes Latin dance steps and movements for fitness.  The Zumba fitness motto is, “Ditch the work out, join the party!”   I quickly noted that there were no males participating and that I would have trouble doing even the simple moves.  Still I am intrigued.

One reason for my interest is that I have often used the image of dance to express how our life with Jesus flows.   Dance is more complicated, more nuanced, than simply walking or running.  It has rhythm and expression that expresses a wide range of emotions and ideas.  I believe our life with Jesus is more often a joyous dance with others moving in and out of the circle, than a somber march of following certain rules and regulations.  Like dance, life in Jesus involves practice and spontaneity, community and solitude.

I doubt that I will be joining a Zumba class soon; I continue to have trouble discerning my left foot from my right.  Recently at my mother’s apartment they had a dance and after some hesitation, I escorted my mom on to the dance floor.  As we “danced” she said to me, “we’re not really dancing, we’re just moving our feet.” I laughed.  

As we live with Jesus,  sometimes we dance, sometimes we simple move our feet.  But it is all graceful with his presence.

Jeremiah 31:13  Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

The Certainty of Questions

As the new lead pastor I have been asking lots of questions.  Who prepares the worship folders, the video slides, or the confirmation materials? Who plows the parking lot?  How much money is in the budget for mission outreach? Who cleans the bathrooms?   Like any new hire I am in the midst of a sharp learning curve, realizing everyday that there is more and more I don’t know.   That can be unnerving at times, especially when my personality is one that likes to appear very competent and knowledgable.  I hate looking foolish!

So I am struck by the amount of questions in this Sunday’s scripture lesson, Matthew 11:2-11.  First, John the Baptist has a question for Jesus, “Are you the promised Messiah that so many people are expecting, or should we start looking for someone else?”  Wow!   The fiery, intense John suddenly has cold feet about Jesus.   John questions whether he has prepared the way for the wrong guy. 

Second, Jesus asks the crowd questions about John, “What were you all expecting when you went out to hear John preach?”  Jesus challenges the expectations and assumptions of the people. Could it be that we allow our assumptions to dictate what God should do or be?   Do we at times assume that God’s ways should match our expectations?  Can questions break open a new perspective, a new vision?  Can doubt play a role in shaping faith?

What questions do you wrestle with as you seek to trust, live and serve?