Tag Archives: Good

The Contemplative Pastor

contemplative pastorRenowned theologian Eugene Peterson reminds us in his book, The Contemplative Pastor, that what a church needs most is a pastor immersed both in God’s life and our own lives. For Peterson, the question on a pastor’s mind should be: “Who are these particular people and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”

A daunting and humbling question, to be sure. But it got me to thinking about the massive role we have come to expect from our pastors. We want them to be active yet reserved, a visionary but realistic, an authority and yet a friend.

Pastors are human, too, and, therefore, cannot be all things to all people.

So it takes us back to Peterson’s question. Finding a good match between a people and the unique person that a certain pastor is is key.

Each pastor has a different style and approach that may work in some churches, but not in others. So it is about both a church and a potential pastor being honest about strengths and weaknesses and what is a good fit and what is not.

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Simply Sow

sow the seedI recently attended the Best Practices in Ministry conference at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, in Columbus, IN. One of the breakout sessions was led by Lou Jander, a retired teacher and church leader. He and his wife Martha have a ministry called Sow the Word. Their mission is to give a booklet of the entire Gospel of John to as many people as they can.

In their travels, they have given the Gospel of John to waiters, bus drivers, store clerks, gas station attendants, whomever they meet along their way.

Lou talked about the fact that he and his wife serve simply as sowers of the seed, as in the parable of the sower. When you look closely at that parable, Jander said, you see that the sower simply sowed the seed with the expectation that not all the seeds would “take.” Some would fall on rocky, thorny or  dry soil and not take root. That was just part of the reality of “broadcast” farming in those days. But what seeds did take root would produce greatly, the parable says, “yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8).

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Brain Hacking

brainA recent segment on 60 Minutes detailed the activities of “brain hacking” taking place among computer companies in the designs of their social media platforms and apps.

Programmers have developed algorithms that take advantage of the brain’s desires for pleasure, Responses to status updates from other users are often spaced out over a period of time to drive us to check our devices more. And “likes” are sometimes bunched up together so that our brains feel a greater sense of reward when they are revealed.

Beyond making me somewhat mad at Facebook and the like for playing with our minds like this, the story reminded me that there are many things that have a greater influence over our brains than we realize.

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Fill in the Blanks

cartonI saw this fill-in-the-blank activity on the back of a carton of berry punch, and it got me to thinking about the people in my life who have had an impact on me. My teachers, my pastors, my co-workers, my friends, my neighbors, my family have all influenced me enormously. But I do not express to them my appreciation as often as I should.

I like how the letter on this carton provides a framework with blanks to fill in. That gets the ball rolling for me. How would you fill in the blanks for people who have helped you through life and your life of faith? How would you describe what they are to you? How would explain what they have enabled you to be? How would you express how they make you feel?

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Clutter

clutter

Is this how our brains look sometimes?

I recently read an article in the Lifestyle section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which the reporter talked about the clutter that accumulates on her dresser and how that clutter affected her morning routine negatively (Sultan, Aisha, “The Trick To Organizing Flat Surfaces,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 26, 2017, H4). She ended up hiring an organization consultant to help her out, and the consultant told her to keep only those things that she truly used or wanted to look at every single day and remove all the rest. You can see the results in this before-and-after photo.

clutter 2

We all have “dumping grounds” where we put all our stuff. And at some point we need to go through it and get rid of the clutter so we can live in a calmer, more peaceful and more organized environment.

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Christmas letters

Christmas letter

What will you say in your Christmas letter this year?

I confess that I am one of those people who loves composing and receiving Christmas letters. Maybe it is the writer in me, but there is something therapeutic to me about summing up the events of the past year in a single page and reminding me and all the friends and loved ones on my Christmas list that the Savior who was born for us in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is still at work in our daily lives.

I love to hear the stories of how God worked in the lives of others during the past year and there is a sense in the very writing of Christmas letters that we are all in this together, that we are corresponding out of mutual love and respect and a bond with one another.

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Plans

calendarI am a planner, I will admit. I like to schedule my day and my week and know when I will be where. This is a natural tendency among humans, we can all acknowledge, I think.

But during my recent illness, all my plans went out the window and I realized that I am not as in control of my time and my life as I like to think I am.

When I was talking about this with a friend of mine, she reminded me of this verse from Scripture:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

So I have taken up the practice of prefacing my plans with the disclaimer, “If the Lord wills … ” And I do not find that confining or pessimistic in any way. I am just relaying to others that my plans are not up to me ultimately; they are up to God.

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Rubbish

rubbishIndeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. —Philippians 3:8

I recently saw a skit based on this Bible verse in which a man and a woman were each holding garbage bags full of “rubbish.”

Each talked about the bad “garbage” of their lives that was weighing them down—addictions, pride, unhealthy habits, dirty thoughts, hurtful words and harmful actions toward others. Then they tossed that “baggage” aside.

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Are You Facing Out?

crossOn this Good Friday, when we focus on the cross, I would like to share with you a devotion I wrote a while back for one of our past periodicals Living the Gospel Life. May your observance of this day be faith-strengthening.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. 1 Cor 1:22-23

When my father graduated from the seminary, my mother gave him a ring with a cross at the center. But in his first weeks as a new pastor in Odell, Nebraska, a farmer observed, “You’re wearing that Continue reading →