What’s the big deal? It’s just an eclipse.

Pondering God in the Air

Yesterday was the day, the day of the big Solar Eclipse. Many people traveled great distances to get a better view of the event, to see it in “totality.” I was not one of those people.  While I remember the last big solar eclipse in the 70’s and I remember making a pin hole box, and also making viewing glasses our of 35mm film my schedule did not allow me to see the big event this year.

I was in the air, flying under the totality of the eclipse as it happened. I got a window seat, and I am an aisle man, just so I might be able to take a photo of the big event. I took lots of “blind” photos as I held the camera at a low angle at the base of the window and attempted to capture the big event. Let’s just say, been there done that, don’t need to try that again in 2099. All this did was  take up a little more room on my memory card, to clear off later.

The woman sitting with me, in the coveted aisle seat, would from time to time glance up from her book and glance toward the window. I couldn’t quite figure out if she was more interested in what the oddball next to her was doing or if she wanted to witness what she could of the eclipse. Finally, after about my 50th attempt to get something with my camera, she said, “I don’t get it, what is the big deal? It’s just an eclipse.” I replied, “I think it is just the rarity of the event that has people excited. I pray I don’t see the next one in 2099.”

That seemed to satisfy her question and she went back to her book, for a few moments. I quietly sat in my window seat and continued to point my camera at something I could not see. I’m guessing it just took a while to register with her, but after a few moments she turned and said, “Why don’t you want to see it in 2099?” I told her I hoped to be with Jesus LONG before that. Suddenly the conversation I had early that morning with my wife came to mind, as we marveled at the wonder of the eclipse, and the amazing God who put this whole thing in motion.

I put down my camera and said, “I think it is the unbelievable clockwork of the universe that makes people want to see this event?” She was puzzled by this statement and gave me a “what are you talking about” look. So I continued, “Doesn’t it amaze you that God, who I know put all this together did it with such precision that can predict it down to the minute? Not just for this eclipse but for the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that. So many people think that this whole universe is just a random shot in the dark from some mysterious big bang, but chaos does not produce such precision, a brilliant designer causes this precision.”

It was back, that “What are you talking about” look. This time it came with a response, “Never given it much thought.” “That,” I said, “Is why the solar eclipse is such a big deal it displays the genius of our God. The Bible even tells us that the skies proclaim the work of God. My favorite verse says of the stars that “night after night they pour forth speech and are not silent. Just a little more proof that God is real and active in His creation. Are you a Christian?” Her response was quick and dismissive, “I was as a child – my parent’s idea not mine.” and she planted her face back in her book to close this conversation.

She didn’t know that I’ve taught confirmation to middle schoolers for 30+ years and it will take more than looking away to stop me from talking, I was on a roll. But before I could say something that might make her wish she had chosen a different seat, I simply said. “I’ll pray that you come to know Christ again.”

Then there was silence.

When we got up to get off the plane she noticed for the first time my t-shirt which on the front reads “God Loves you, but I’m his favorite*” She smiled and said, “I bet you are.” I mentioned that my wife would be upset if you don’t read the back of the shirt (long story for another day) so I offered her a chance. It reads “*Your His favorite too!” followed by Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

I hope I left her today “Pondering God.”

What’s the Big deal? It’s just an Eclipse – or as I like to call it “God showing off!”

Something to Ponder: How does God reveal Himself to you through His creation?

Share your Eclipse experience and thoughts in the comments below.

More Coffee Shop – Less Theater

What the Church needs today.

This morning I had the joy of meeting with a couple that is just 5 weeks away from their big day.  I asked to meet with them since they have asked me to speak at their wedding.  When we decided to get together it was suggested that we meet at a Coffee Shop here in Eden Prairie. (For the record It was their idea to meet at a coffee shop – No objection from me!)

So this morning I got up early, ran to the farmers market, to stock up on some fresh veggies then headed off to the coffee shop. I had to circle through the parking lot twice before I went to plan B for parking. Plan B was to drive down the street and wait in the next parking lot and watch…. for a car to leave and then move in for the kill!  It worked! Before long I saw not one but two cars leave the parking lot so I moved in for a spot! 

Don’t Stop Here There is MORE>>>>

Freedom Squandered

Pondering God Blog Post July 3, 2017

Tomorrow is the 4th of July the day we celebrate our independence from England. It is a time when we talk a great deal about freedom, and we celebrate the freedom we have in America. There is much to celebrate in America when it comes to freedom, but I have a confession to make, I have squandered my freedom.

I write this today from the porch of my home on my wireless laptop computer that is connected to the internet via my wifi router, while I stream music on my iPad that plays through my Bluetooth speaker.  Freedom is great I can listen to just about any song I can imagine, and write about any topic I please. I traveled last month through several states, camping as we traveled without fear.  Sounds like I have this freedom thing down.

It is not a question of if I use my freedom, or if I enjoy my freedom, I do both!  Yesterday as I was preparing graphics to post online, using my freedom of expression, I created the photo at the top of this post.  The original meme simply read “Jesus Make Yourself Know In The USA Again.” As I pondered this statement It struck me that the task of making Jesus know in this country is a divine work of the Spirit of the Living God – THROUGH His people.

Don’t Stop Here There is MORE>>>>

Observations from a coffee shop

Just Reading

This morning I stopped into my local coffee shop for a fresh cup of coffee and a little time in the Word before heading to the office. It was a typical morning in a very typical coffee shop. There was someone who was there for the long haul, he had papers and drawings spread across the table and was working his way through a large ice coffee. There was a woman reading the morning paper and someone who was on a conference call at another table with his headset microphone in place.

I took my coffee and found a table by the window and sat down to have some time in the Word.  I noticed when I came in a young man sitting in one of the comfortable chairs by the door, he appeared to be reading a Bible, but I was not 100% sure it was a Bible. As I was finishing my reading from John ‘s Gospel I noticed he had set the book on the table and was enjoying his coffee. It was a Bible he had been reading.

I caught his eye and asked, “What have you been reading this morning?” he replied, “The Bible” I waited for more information assuming it would come…it didn’t. I decided to rephrase the question, “Anything in particular that you were reading? I just finished reading a couple of chapters on the early ministry of Jesus in John’s Gospel.” I was not ready for his response. He gave me a quizzical look and said: “Just reading.”  With these words, he picked up his Bible and headed out the door.

“Just Reading” His answer made me ponder how many time I came to the Bible and was found to be “Just reading.” I prayed for that young man that the Living Spirit of God would help the words he read today to speak to his heart. God promises that His Word never returns void, but it always accomplishes that for which it was sent.  As I ponder his words again I have to admit that more often than I like I to have been guilty of “Just reading” the Word, and not letting it penetrate, not letting it encourage, rebuke, correct or train me.

12  For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

11  so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

SOMETHING TO PONDER: What do you do to help you do more than “Just read” the Bible?  Really….. I would love to hear from you.

 

So It’s Tuesday

Just That Simple

So I spent the day yesterday helping my son Isaiah move the last of his belongings from Duluth to my home temporarily as he looks for a place to live in the area.  So today is my Monday, and unlike so many people I know, I love Mondays!  I have a fresh week in front of me and a great Sunday of Worship behind me – What is not to love!

My morning was spent in the office catching up on a few things, planning worship for Wednesday and some sermon writing.  Now it was time to grab a Salad and hang out at my new favorite Coffee Shop Monkabeans. As I try to find a place to sit I observe two ladies sitting at a table discussing the Bible. I placed my order and sat down by the window. Behind me, a local Pastor sits with someone and has a conversation about doing ministry together.

Don’t Stop Here There is MORE>>>>

Jammin to Bach

Happy Birthday J.S. Bach

Today is J.S. Bach’s and in celebration of that fact, I am jammin to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. I may have found my new sermon writing mix! I hope that today the church on earth recognizes the amazing talent and giftedness of J.S. Bach. As a Lutheran, I love the great heritage of music left to us by such masters as Bach. The wealth of great organ works and orchestrations left for us is amazing first of all in the exceptional quality of the music, and secondly by the sheer volume of the work that has been given. When we look at the life of J.S. Bach we see a life dedicated to using his God given gifts to his praise and glory. 

Don’t Stop Here There is MORE>>>>

Recharge

What recharges your batteries?


One of the first pastor’s I ever served with Rev. Elmer Scheck was religious about his afternoon “power nap”. I was fascinated by the simple fact that he could take such a short refreshing nap and wake up full of energy and resolve! I always thought that the term “power nap” was just a way to justify catching a few winks on the job. That is until I started taking a post-lunch “power nap” most days.

There is something wonderfully recharging in this 30-minute retreat into the easy chair in my office. I turn off the lights, and give the nap commands to my echo dot, “Alexa, play some John Michael Talbot, and set an alarm for 30 minutes. The rest, as they say, is history.

But there are times when we need to be recharged on a deeper level than a power nap, deeper even then a good night rest. There are times when our very soul needs to be recharged from our toes to the top of our head. There are many ways that I have found to recharge my soul.  One of my favorites is to get away for a couple of days alone, with just my Bible and something to write with. (Well, plus a little food, coffee, and chocolate)  It takes a couple of days for the rumble of my mind to calm down and then…. ah, the refreshing recharge begins as I spend time alone with the Word.

The strange thing is that as much as I enjoy this getaway, I rarely find time to take it. So I look for a more functional deep recharge. Tomorrow mine begins, as I fly to Phoenix for the 2017 Best Practices for Ministry Conference. This is one of those conferences that make you rejoice in what the Lord is doing in His church. A collection of 2000+ like-minded missional thinkers who are able to see that God is not in any box at all, but works in a new and exciting way each day.

For 3 days I will soak up The Son and some Arizona sun, be challenged to think differently about the Call of Christ for His church, and to be encouraged and recharged by fellow Lutherans. I hope that you find ways to recharge your soul, and would love to hear what recharges you. Share your ideas in the comments below.

<>< Craig

SOMETHING TO PONDER:

What recharges you?

How can you help recharge others?

“I Hope I Can Poop in Heaven?”

Just when I thought I had heard everything

The other day in Confirmation Class I used a set of “Faith Talk” cards that I picked up many years ago.  After dealing out the cards, I invite students to pick two cards that they are willing to share with the group.  The cards include a wide variety of topics, from early faith memories to questions about their own view of the world.  One of the students picked a card that asked “do you believe there would be animals in heaven, why or why not?”

After giving his answer, and he is an animal in heaven kind of guy, he added an under his breath an extra thought. “I hope I can poop in heaven?” I must admit after teaching confirmation for more than 30 years there is little that catches me off guard. But he accomplished it.  Contrary to the rules of “faith talk” in which we ask students not to respond to others comments, but simply listen and learn.  I had to ask…”Did you just say that you hoped you could poop in heaven?” A little red faced, he answered, “yes, you know that great feeling you get after a good poop. I hope I have that in heaven.

What a simple request it was, to have that satisfied feeling that comes only from a good BM. Of all the requests I have heard over the years it was refreshing to hear such a simple request for the life beyond. I reminded him that he could aim a little higher for the bliss of heaven.

It got me pondering after I stopped chuckling, What would I hope to find in heaven? What joy of the earth would I hope to find in eternity. I don’t think I ever looked beyond German Chocolate Cake. But if I had to pick a “Feeling” I would love to have that feeling that comes when I am lost in a time of prayer. That moment when I am in the presence of that powerful prayer warrior who just seems to walk into God’s presence, and you feel a complete lifting of any burden. That feeling of holy release…that is what I long for.

SOMETHING TO PONDER: What about you? Which of your earthly experiences would you like to take with you into eternity?

Now before I get all the email about heaven being so much greater than all we can imagine, I get that! It will be an experience and a presence with my King that I can never anticipate…But I can still hope for German Chocolate Cake.

Change is not easy

My search for a new coffee shop

We are all creatures of habit, we like things the way we like things. You might want to write that down, that was profound. Now that I have made the decision to return to full time church work at New Creation Lutheran Church I need to find a new coffee shop.

And the need is even great since the heat in my current office is out of control, most days it’s about 92 degrees in there. Yes they are trying to resolve the issue, but with a boiler that was built 50+ years ago it takes time.

monkabeansSo back to my search, I need to find a space that allows me the freedom to be comfortable, is not a “big box coffee shop” and has good wi-fi. I guess a good cup of coffee would be a good thing as well. Today is my first day on the hunt and I may have found it first try. Monkabeans is a local coffee shop about 5 minutes from my office sauna and so far their wi-fi and coffee are both good!

The other determination of the quality of a coffee shop is who gathers.  There is a nice mix of people 2 men were discussing Scripture when I came in – always a good sign. There are two tables dedicated to local business people, a place to put your business card and let people know who you are. I will have to remember to bring some next time I stop in.

I often feel that our churches should have more of the feel of a good coffee shop. A comfortable place which has a home like feel, good wi-fi and a good cup of java. A place where people just like to hang out, a place where people can just bring a good book, (even better – THE Good Book) and relax. Maybe we should have some tables out where people can leave information about who they are, and how they enjoy serving. Some quiet music in the background some occasional fresh baked goodies and I think we would have it made.

I think it’s time to put the computer away and grab a good book and kick back for a little time “in the Word”.

SOMETHING TO PONDER: How could you church become more like a coffee shop? Share you thoughts in the comments I would love to hear from you.

 

Pondering The Aftermath of Thanksgiving

How quickly we forget

dinner-1060352_640Nothing can take the meaning out of Thanksgiving like Black Friday.

Wednesday evening I gathered together with my congregation for a Thanksgiving Celebration. It was a great service, a chance to reflect on the many blessings God has given to us. We sang those familiar hymns of Thanksgiving, “Come Ye, Thankful People Come” and “We Gather Together to Ask The Lord’s Blessings”. I shared about my obsession with writing instruments starting with crayons, through 4 color click Bic pens to Magnum Sharpies and how we all seem to struggle for contentment.

We read Scriptures that remind us of our need to be thankful, and the need for contentment:

 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.
 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.
 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
 Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings.
 All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Philippians 4:1-23 (NIV)

We went home from worship feeling truly thankful.

On Thanksgiving day we gathered with family around a table laden with good food which the Lord so richly provides. As a family we heard about the origins of Thanksgiving and read the proclamation from George Washington in 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

first-thanksgiving-proclamationWhereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

We enjoyed like so many a filling meal, and even took the opportunity to share what we are thankful for in the past year. We even watched a little football, even in our divided home there was peace through the game.

photoblog-006BUT THEN…Black Friday.

There are many stories behind the origin of the Black Friday.  Some suggest it came from the days of slavery in this country where slave owners would sell their slaves the day after thanksgiving at a discount to help the plantation owners get ready for winter, extra wood to cut and preparations to be made. While others suggest it started in the 50’s to describe the people calling in sick after Thanksgiving to take a long weekend.

It’s also been suggested that it was first used by Philadelphia police, in response to all the mayhem and headaches caused by all the people and traffic created by hordes of shoppers heading for the city’s downtown stores on the two days after Thanksgiving. The latest use of the phrase began in the 1980’s as people claimed it marked the first day that retailers began to go from the “red” of cash losses to the “black” of cash profits.

I propose yet another reason for the name Black Friday.

It is Black Friday for it is the day that so many seem to have lost sight of their thankfulness from just hours earlier and we leave our prayers of contentment and replace them with our desire for bargains and our greed for the latest and greatest toys! Now we and many retailers are not even content to wait until Black Friday to cast off our thankfulness and cash in on the frenzy of our self centered greed.

Makes me wonder what will happen to our thoughts and prayers today (Sunday) come Cyber Monday… sure am glad I didn’t preach today, Thanks pastor Don!

<>< Craig

SOMETHING TO PONDER: What strikes you in the contrast from Thanksgiving to Black Friday? Share it in the comments below we would love to hear from you.

 

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