Pastor Mark’s Blog
 
 

Pastor’s Blog March 17

 

St. Patrick’s Day

                 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:15

 

Are you wearing green today? Perhaps your pajamas? Typically, this is the day the color green is splashed all across our country like no other. Hats and shamrocks, green glimmering vests, glitter and gold, beer and whiskey and corn beef and cabbage rule the day. Even the Chicago River runs green on March 17th. But not today. There will not be any grand, public celebrations as all public gatherings, bars and restaurants have been shut down.

 

I am 75% Norwegian. I figure that’s what pushed me half way through the door at Our Saviour’s in 2007. But I do have a touch of Irish blood in me. My great, great grandfather broke the rules and fell in love with a young Irish girl named Miss Mary Fee. Generations late, that touch can still be seen in my brother’s subtle red hair. Growing up I touched many a lefsa and lutefisk but corn beef was never touched and never on the menu. I had no contact with the meaning of St. Patty’s Day, only that people wore green. Perhaps that is how Christians today respond to the day of Pentecost. We wear red, but most folks understand very little of the Holy Spirit.

 

So, what is the true significance of St. Patrick’s Day?

 

Patrick lived in the 5th Century and died on March 17th. He is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people.

That bears repeating. St. Patrick was credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland. Now that is something to celebrate. St. Paul writes, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As is it written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15.

Over the centuries, I’m sure for most, the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day has been lost and it’s simply a day to party with friends. Today, the ability to celebrate with others has been denied. We have been told to shelter at home. But being separated from others does not negate our ability to acknowledge and give thanks to God for the message behind the man. Let us take a moment today to praise God for Patrick, the man that endured great hardship, became a believer in Jesus Christ, and influenced a nation through faith. But let us take a lifetime to live in thanksgiving for God, whether we are together or not, for the message and the man, immortal, who has brought salvation for all, Jesus Christ. We have been touched and are to be transformed by this gift of faith. And whether the river runs green or not – nothing can deny the blood that ran red upon the cross.

Today, we are unable to physically run with quickened feet to share the Good News with our neighbors. But sometime today, perhaps with a phone call, text or email – you might ask the question, “Do you know the significance behind the man, St Patrick?” And who knows what the Holy Spirit might do – a river of living water might flow – one that results in a great party celebration! Remember, Jesus has already washed and blessed your feet! 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!                                                      Celebrating with you All, Pastor Mark



Pastor’s Blog March 16

“On Eagles Wings”

 

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles…”

                                                                                                                              Isaiah 40:31

 

Yesterday, we all were challenged to find a way to worship away from church.  I chose to listen to a sermon online entitled, “Ruah”, from my sister’s pastor. “Ruah” is the Hebrew word for “Spirit” or “Breath of God”, and refers to the Holy Spirit.

As I listened to the message, I walked to the window, the sun was streaming in. The mountains were crystal clear. It was an incredibly beautiful morning. As I stood gazing at the beauty, with coffee cup in hand, my eye caught an eagle in flight. Then I saw two. They were beautiful birds, wings extended, drifting and hovering high above the trees. It seemed as if they were suspended and were being lifted up higher and higher without any effort of their own.

Then the scripture came to mind, “Those who hope in the Lord, they will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Can you picture those beautiful birds? I’m sure you’ve seen eagles in flight many times before. They are magnificent, strong creatures, but they also know how to use the wind beneath their wings.

In these next weeks of uncertainty, let us be like the eagle – stretching out our lives, our concerns, our worries and allow the “Ruah”, the Holy Spirit to lift us up and hold us steady. The Holy Spirit will lead us, guide us, strengthen us, and give us peace.

Isaiah tells us that those who “hope” in the Lord will renew their strength. That word “hope” refers to “waiting patiently with expectation”. Many circumstances are beyond our control. We are being called upon to be concerned, to take this pandemic very seriously, to plan but not panic. Let us wait patiently with the expectation that God will continue to lift us up, and direct our paths through this difficult time. Let us continue to pray for our leaders, communities, business owners, the sick, our friends and our neighbors – that the Holy Spirit will lift us all up, unite our hearts and allow us to soar high above all fear.

 

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Mark 

 
 


Pastor Mark’s March Blog

 

Pastor Mark’s March 2020 Blog . . .

 

 

5th SUNDAY WORSHIP

Sunday, March 29, 2020 – 9:45 a.m.

 

For the past few years, we have taken advantage of the 5th Sunday’s of the month and have worshipped as one body. Typically, we have gathered for a shortened worship service in the sanctuary and then eat breakfast together in the fellowship hall. 5th Sunday celebrations were halted during the remodel project because we had no place to eat together. Now that the fellowship hall is finished, we are planning a twist.  March 29    we will hold our worship service in the fellowship hall. Following the service, we will then share an extended coffee hour together.

For the past months, we have talked about the many and various ways we can use our new space for mission. I am going to talk more about that on the 29th. Not only will we talk about mission, but also experience worship together as mission in this new space.

As more groups have been using this space, positive feedback continues to pour in. People who have attended The Gathering Place meals, ConneXion events, Youth activities, and fellowship time have all been very pleased with the renovation. It’s an exciting time!

 

The Season of Lent is fast approaching.

Ash Wednesday will arrive next week, February 26, 2020.

We will be exploring a series by Adam Hamilton, entitled, “Simon Peter: Flawed yet Faithful Disciple”.

Peter was not rich or educated, but was familiar with hard work. He was quick-tempered and impetuous, but possessed a passion that would change the world. He left everything to follow his teacher, yet struggled with doubt and fear. We will follow and learn from Peter, through the highs and lows.  We can identify with much of Peter’s journey. And we have much to learn and be inspired by this full throttle follower of Jesus Christ.

Come, join the journey! Lenten ConneXion (Ash Wednesday) begins with dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 6:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 


Pastor Mark’s February Blog

Pastor Mark’s February 2020 Blog . . . 

“So. . . Who’s Telling the Truth?”

 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   John 8:31

 

Did you watch the Democratic debate on January 14? If so, you might have noticed something interesting on the hand of candidate Tom Steyer. There was a symbol crudely drawn in pen on his left hand. A closer look revealed a large cross with four smaller crosses drawn in each quadrant. So, what did this mean? Was the symbol a secret code or some subliminal message sent to our subconscious?

Come to find out, since 2017, Steyer has drawn, what is known as a “Jerusalem Cross” on his left hand each morning. (Yes, he is a Christian, but no, he did not know it was a “Jerusalem” cross when he drew it). When the media asked him what it meant he said, “It means to tell the truth no matter what the cost. For a while now, I have drawn it on my hand every day to remind myself to always tell the truth.”

Does Tom Steyer tell the truth? I don’t know. But the idea of telling the truth, what a novel idea.

Who do you trust to tell you the truth?

Do you trust the President, Congress, foreign governments, financial institutions, media outlets, Facebook or twitter? Perhaps you look to lawyers, doctors, educators, religious leaders, counselors. Will your plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or financial advisor tell the truth?  It’s easy to become cynical when lies seem to roll off tongues as water rolls over the falls.

Do you think this growing distrust in humanity carries over into our trust in the one who declares,

I AM Truth”? Jesus declared, “I AM the way, the TRUTH and the life.”

Jesus declared that he embodied truth

and that if one would hold to his teachings,

they would come to know the truth and that truth would set them free.

Can this be true?     I absolutely believe this to be true!

But like any truth claims, they need to be vetted. As Christians, we need to test, try and press into these claims of Christ to see for ourselves whether they prove to be true. It should be crystal clear that we cannot simply trust our culture and the morals of the common man to lead us to truth. We must ask, seek and knock for deeper truth and come to know this truth for ourselves with a confidence that comes from personal investigation, experience, study and revelation.

Over the past few days, snow and icy roads have made travel difficult. But during this time, I have felt the truth of God’s Word spill over me in a refreshing way. I’ve been reading from my One Year Bible, in the midst of Matthew’s Gospel.

I want to share some of the truth that renewed my soul…

“Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor -sick people do.

Then he added,

“Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture,

I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous,

but those who know they are sinners.”    Mathew 9:10-13

“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd….

He said to his disciples,

‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

So, pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest;

ask him to send more workers into his fields.”   Matthew 9:35-38

“What do I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We play wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ For John (the Baptist) didn’t spend his time eating and drinking and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners?’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles,

because they had not repented of their sins and turned to God.    Matthew 11:16-20

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer:

“O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever,

and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!”   Matthew 11:25-26

Then Jesus said,

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you,

because I am humble and gentle at heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”    Matthew 11:28-30

So what truth can be found in these words of Christ? I will let King David clarify the truth from Psalm 14…

“Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’

They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race;

he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God.

But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

No one does good, not a single one.”    Psalm 14:1-3

The truth is, we are all sinners! We are all sick and who by nature do not seek after God. We need a Savior!

We are called to repent of our sin before God and turn to Him and live! We are to be “childlike” and out of our physical weariness and emotional fatigue, come to Jesus and He will give us spiritual rest. We are to walk in His ways. We are to know that Jesus is humble and gentle and will lift us up and will carry us when we are weak.

As we grow in His grace, God who is in charge of the harvest,

will send us into his harvest field to share this grace with others.

The world embraces a lie. The world believes that we are by nature good and out of our own goodness, we will seek to help others and improve the world around us. Because we are good, we need not God and/or to turn to one that does not exist. We are to be wise and clever in our own minds, and have the capacity to find all the answers to our problems on our own. We are to find rest within ourselves and discover our path for self. If there is a God, he is controlling, manipulative and angry. We need to be strong in and of ourselves and relying upon someone else shows weakness.

But, let not your hearts be troubled. Truth remains! And we are called to know Truth! Where is it found?

Not in a man with a cross drawn on his hand, seeking the power of the presidency. Rather, from the man whose hands were placed on a cross, seeking to give his life for all the broken sinners of the world, and in his human weakness and sacrifice, he empowers us to live an abundant life.  

If the faith you cling to seems heavy and burdensome or irrelevant and insignificant, perhaps you need a dose of deeper Truth….

Repent in prayer.

Turn to Jesus, come to Him and ask him to teach and reveal to you more of his Truth. Expose yourself to the teachings in his Word, and have him expose where you are holding on to legalistic religious tradition.

He is humble and gentle, a compassionate shepherd,

who in great power has a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.

 

 
 
 
 
 


Pastor Mark’s January Blog

Pastor Mark’s January Newsletter Blog

“Fast & Pray”

In the Old Testament book of Ezra, as the exiled children of Israel are preparing to return to Jerusalem, Ezra says, “Therefore, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possession.”

Ezra goes on to say,

“I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen

to protect us from enemies on the road,

because we had told the king,

‘The gracious hand of God is on everyone who looks to him,

but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this,

and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:21-23)

Have you ever fasted?

And preparing for a colonoscopy doesn’t count….otherwise I would be a veteran “faster”.   I have intentionally fasted a few times in my life, but in general, I think fasting has become a lost discipline. Many times, the Bible records God’s people taking time to fast and to pray as they face a crossroads looking to the future.

In the New Testament book of Acts, in the church at Antioch, we are told,

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,

‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.’

So, after they had fasted and prayed,

they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:1-3)

I believe that the year 2020, in the life of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, will be a very important one. In many ways, this past year has been one of preparation. Our facilities are being prepared. Youth ministry is being prepared. Structures are being prepared to support ministries like the Caring Place.   And our hearts are being further prepared to…..

walk in faith,

follow the leading of the Holy Spirit,

and encourage one another in love.

As we enter this new year, what might happen if we all humble ourselves before God, fasting and praying that God would move powerfully through our church?   LCMC is encouraging all its congregations to PRAY for 3 days from January 7-9, 2020. I’d like to include fasting along with prayer. Fasting involves intentionally denying yourself something that you value as a sacrifice in honor to God. This self-denial is an exercise that opens up the senses to further connect with God. Is it a mandate? No. But just as singing in a worship service is not required in worship to God, the act of making a joyful noise further opens up one’s heart to connect with God. So also, fasting can further open one’s heart in prayer and connection to God.

So, I invite you to join me in fasting and prayer during these 3 days in early January. You can choose whatever food or drink you would personally like to include in your fast. Perhaps keep it to yourself.

Jesus says to keep it between you and the Father. (Mt. 6:16-18)

And then pray…. Pray, Pray, Pray, that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in power will direct our church, our ministry, our personal faith in dynamic ways. Pray…. that we would, as one body, live and share in the joy of Jesus Christ. Pray…. that we grow in boldness, confidence and humility recognizing the move of God in our congregation and in our community. Pray…. that the presence of God will fall upon us and that it will be undeniable. Pray…. protection against the evil one and that nothing interferes with God’s desire for us.

I’m looking forward to an amazing year filled with many challenges and many celebrations!!

 
 
 


Pastor Mark’s December Newsletter Blog

“The Glow Room”

I ripped and tore the sheetrock from the main wall in my living room last weekend. This was a project that I had studied, pondered and procrastinated for the last five years, but never actually pulled the trigger.
Suddenly as I pulled off a large chunk of drywall, a darkened space opened up. In the middle of the 23 foot wall, up about 6 feet, I saw behind open studs, a black framed, finished space. The space was 6 feet long, 8 feet high, and 2 feet wide. It seemed like a secret space.
 
What was it for? Why was this space buried behind drywall and paneling in the main room? A strange place to be sure. Was it originally built into the house back in the 1970’s or was it added later? There was no insulation between the studs that opened into the main room. A camouflaged door was created for access through the attic. Power was available and a large aluminum shade lamp with clamps rested on the floor.
What could this be? 
 
The following days, I discussed the space with friends. I took pictures and sent them to family. I even talked it over with the heat pump estimators who came to give bids on a new heating system for my house. Some people suggested that the open framing in the wall might have been intended for windows. After short discussions, everyone simply shrugged their shoulders and didn’t have any real ideas.
 
Finally, the third “bid” man arrived. (it’s always the third one right?) We first talked about the business of heating then I quickly turned his attention to “the space”. He looked, scratched his head and we climbed up into the attic. Suddenly he said, “I’ve seen this before. I’ve entered other people’s attic spaces where the owners are not even aware that there is a “space” finished in their attic with power and lights – fully enclosed.”
 
Then he declared, “It’s a GROW ROOM!” “Are you kidding me?” I said. He replied, “I’d bet money that it’s a grow room.” HUH!!  A secret place, laid dormant for decades, a dark space ready with power, and light, all ready for growth.
 
Why am I writing about this at Christmas? Let’s just say I felt inspired!
 
Over the decades, one could argue that Christmas has become a crazy time, moving at a frantic pace, over indulging on stuff that we don’t really need, while running on empty and finishing the race exhausted.  Have we forgotten about the “secret place”?
 
Maybe this year – we re-capture “the secret place”. Maybe this year we re-discover the secret place of Bethlehem, where Jesus entered the darkened world. The secret place that laid dormant for a thousand years; King David’s hometown.
 
This secret place that has, hidden in its name, a special meaning, ‘beth’…meaning ‘house’, and ‘lechem’…meaning ‘bread’. Bethlehem is God’s house of bread, the place that would provide the birthplace of the “bread of life” from which all the world might be nourished. Maybe we re-focus upon the dark, black space in which the shepherds lived – keeping watch over their flocks by night. And maybe we re-experience the power and light of the glorious angels declaring the great good news about a Savior’s birth.
 
Jesus was born in a dark, black, secret place, inhabited by animals and laid to rest on a bed of straw. God chose this humble, holy place for his Son, the light of glory to be born. And he chose this darkened world, in which he tore open the heavens and ripped open the skies that the King of glory would grow and generate power that would ultimately overcome sin, death and the Evil one.
 
Perhaps you find yourself in a darkened place this holiday season. Perhaps you feel hidden from the world and no one sees. Remember that God has chosen to do his greatest work in the midst of secret, hidden, darkened places.

The Lord sees you.

GOD IS WITH YOU!  

  In fact, that’s what this secret season is all about. EMMANUEL – meaning, ‘GOD IS WITH US’!  And God IS with us!!  Not only that, there is power with us, (the Holy Spirit)! And there is a lamp with us, (God’s Word). And there is the light, Jesus Christ himself is with us!
 
We live in a grow room. It can be very dark. But may it become a “GLOW” room. May the light of Christ grow and glow in our hearts this Christmas Season. And we re-ceive God’s Great Good News,
 
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that is for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
 
Merry Christmas!   Pastor Mark
 
 


Pastor’s November Blog

 

Pastor Mark’s November Newsletter Blog

“Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same!”
 
My cat, my cable company, and Blockchain Technology, what do these three have in common? They are indicators that change is in the air.
 
Tigger, my aging cat, snuck out of the house last night. When I go outside to retrieve wood for the fire, she is increasingly more intent on sneaking outside. The consequence was that she spent all night out on the deck, in the dark. I heard a faint meow in the morning and realized she was outside. In the past months, I have had to change from dry food to canned food because of her digestive problems. And joy of all joys, I’m getting more hair balls coughed up on my bed spread through the night. I’m sure as Tiggy continues to age, as do I, more change will unfold.
 
My cable company told me that I needed to change my recording equipment. A month ago, and four appointments later, I’m still waiting for that change to occur. Once again, I will have to learn a new way of working with new equipment; it’s not a big deal, but just one more change that requires attention.
 
 
Blockchain Technology. Have you heard of it? Now, potentially this IS a big deal. According to Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of “Blockchain Revolution”, the blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value. Now that’s a mouthful!  “In simplest of terms”, they say, “It is a time-stamped series of immutable record of data that is managed by clusters of computers not owned by any single entity.” The three game changers about this technology is that it’s 1. Decentralized. 2. Transparent. And 3. Immutable. And amazingly enough, it’s FREE! Transactions as we know it, in all sorts of fields, will be altered and changed. For the good? Yes, transparency and the inability to deceive, cheat and steal is great. But the fall out will potentially include many business closures and many employees losing their careers (look out Charles Schwab, Edward Jones and Merrill Lynch).
 
It’s interesting that there is a new potential technology involving a free transactional system providing the world with greater security, safety, transparency, and human interconnectedness and accountability.
 
Do you realize that there is already a system in place, in God’s technological platform that provides each one of us – security, safety, transparency, human interconnectedness and also accountability? This platform is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.
 
And the great news is that it is offered to us FREE of charge. Yet, it is not free to God! He established this platform at great cost, commitment, intentionality, and passion. We are the recipients of this amazing technological transaction – which involved the divine becoming human. A transaction that we will never truly understand but are asked to accept, trust, believe and utilize. And this transactional system is available to us every day, at every moment, for every person.
 
The world’s transactional systems will continue to change and alter and evolve as technology develops. But rest assured that God’s transactional system will never change!

 

Life and salvation through Jesus Christ IS immutable.  

 
The abundant life God promises today, and the eternal life He points us to in the future involves ONE transaction – and Jesus provided that transaction for each one of us on the cross at Calvary 2000 years ago. Everything else of value in this life is to be seen and evaluated through this ONE transaction.
 

All other transactions perhaps can be summed up in the words of St. Paul in Galatians 5:6, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  

  Therefore, hold on to the immutable truth, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”   Hebrews 13:5   Some things change, and some things will FOREVER stay the same. Praise God!
 
In Christ,
 
Pastor Mark
 
 
 
 
 


Pastor Mark’s October Newsletter Blog

“Happiness:  Making a Few Moves”

 
This past month has brought some new moves. Jeriah has moved into her new life in New York. She has moved away from what was familiar to a brand new set of conditions – academically, socially, spiritually, physically, culturally, and if nothing else, adjusting to life without Costco. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s is only a 15 minute drive away. Simultaneously, I’ve moved back into an old house with new conditions. The loud noise of resounding quiet rings in my ears. No more daily connections around meals or meetings or work schedules. No more shared moments during sunrise or sunsets. No more spontaneous adventures wherever the wind might take us. It’s a new culture for me too. A familiar feeling that reminds me when she left for college, yet this is farther reaching, farther climbing, farther challenging. A father could not be more excited for his daughter’s new found adventure. But as I hear the familiar wind chimes ring in the distance, I also recognize that this move is something new.
 
Perhaps you are experiencing something new, and these words are ringing true for you. How are we to handle these new moving conditions?
 
This morning I read an article about finding greater happiness in life. Some of the recommendations given were to play more video games and take more selfies. This article sent me on my own pondering about…. what truly brings greater happiness in one’s life?
 
As I began to jot down a few notes, the following thoughts quickly emerged and without knowing it, an article of my own was being created. Perhaps this might be helpful to my daughter, I don’t know – but I quickly realized that I need these thoughts for myself and perhaps they might resonate with you.
 
Buried in each thought is a secret treasure that can be found in scripture – but I’ll leave that searching for you if you want to find.
 
This is not necessarily a complete list – maybe it’s a KEY list – and maybe these thoughts will provoke a few ponderings of your own to add, delete, adjust, or expand to personalize it for yourself.
 
    A Few Moves Toward Happiness:  
  1. Move to REST in a peaceful place – enjoy quiet, music, devotion.

  Rest for your inner soul. Time with God. Time with yourself.

  1. Move to ACCOMPLISH something that brings satisfaction – exercise, yard work, house work or homework, perhaps a remodel project or even paying the bills – some tangible tasks that feel good accomplishing.

  A work that is gratifying not a work that is driven by shame or guilt.

  1. Move to CONNECT with someone. Meet for coffee, a walk or a talk. Share a meal, a snack or perhaps happy hour. Personal connection with another human being – resist email or text or even phone call if possible.

  Face to face contact is always most satisfying.

  1. Move to SERVE (or encourage) someone else with an act of kindness. Shift your focus from self to others – help to meet a need.

  Helping to meet another in need will always bring meaningful satisfaction and happiness to your soul.

  1. Move to UNDERSTAND your life in a larger context. You will live more fully in the moment with the knowledge that your life is connected to a bigger picture. If a Christian, your life is lived within God’s grand design.

  From day to day, you might not see movement but understand, God is moving you toward His destiny!

Happiness is found when you are moving toward something of intrinsic value, not in your running away from something nor as you are paralyzed by fear, nor by simply treading water aimlessly.

   So, where are you headed?

   Take time to….. * listen to the birds * smell the flowers * sip the coffee * taste the wine * rest in the quiet * watch the sunrise * stir the sauce on the stove * walk the familiar path * receive from the Spirit * read the Word * return to what you know * share your inner thoughts * help a person in need * thank God for the moments you have right here, right now.

   Remember what has brought you joy in the past.

Happiness is here for us today. It will be waiting for us tomorrow. Can you see it? Can you perceive it? Let us move in these moments and receive it!   As I sip my coffee in this quiet moment, I recognize a familiar move: “Thanks Be to God!”

“And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”    Phil 4:19

 
 


Pastor Mark’s September Newsletter Blog

Pastor Mark’s September Newsletter Blog

“The Lesson of the Basil Seed”
 
The night before my daughter headed out on her adventure to Southeast Asia, she yelled from her bedroom, “Hey dad, can you take care of my basil seeds?” I was directed to a couple compostable cups sitting on the window sill. Over the last couple of years, Jeriah has been growing a green thumb. Succulents and other such plants have been springing up around the house. She planted these basil seeds while still at school and now she wanted to make sure I would keep an eye on them. The little seedlings were just breaking the surface of the soil and looked pretty fragile, but I said I would do my best. With a little bit of water, and a little bit of patient waiting, by the time Jeriah returned, those seedlings were starting to stretch their limbs.
 
A few days later, I saw a tiny fan, blowing over those fragile looking sprigs. I asked her, “Why the fan?”
 
She said that she was told by a fellow “green thumber” that if a steady, light wind continuously blows on the plants, it will make them stronger and more robust. Sure enough, as the continual breeze blew, the stems grew thicker and the plants more hearty.  A few days ago, Jeriah brought in a plant that showed strong leaves and new growth popping out in all directions. She then started plucking off some of the leaves, eating a few and declaring “Now we have ‘fresh’ basil to add to our salads.” And she added, ‘By plucking off these leaves, the plant will grow broader and more healthy rather than a tall more weakly stalk.
 
This simple seed tale germinated a number of spiritual insights popping out in different directions. 
 
Jesus loved to teach with stories and parables and often used tangible, ordinary objects to covey, and/or cover up his message. A number of times he used the example of seeds in describing the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 13, Jesus told the parable of the Sower and the seed being spread upon the path, rocky, thorny and good soil. Jesus then spoke about good seed being sown in a field but while sleeping, an enemy sowed weeds among the seeds. (And we are not talking about cannabis here!) Finally, Jesus talked about the mustard seed; so small in its beginning but grows into a large garden plant providing shelter for the birds.
 
I hope Jesus might smile at this tiny basil seed thing. And I hope you might find a little encouragement with the spiritual ponderings I bring.
 
 
I could talk about the watering and waiting that is required in the Christian life. I could emphasize the pruning back that is necessary as part of faith development. I could key on the delight of fresh basil spice and the potential to bring added flavor to the lives of others. But for days, I found my eyes wandering back upon that miniature fan blowing over that tiny basil seedling. I watched the tiny frame constantly quivering in the quiet wind. To be honest, I could not really detect a growth or strengthening of that seedling only the tremors. But given time, it was obvious that Jeriah presented, in triumphant fashion, a healthy, strong, and vibrant plant.
 
To become healthy, strong, and vibrant followers of Jesus Christ, the constant, steady wind needs to blow.
 
We need the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow in us and through us.
 
The wind of the Spirit is the breath of God which allows us to come alive. God also allows a wind to blow against us that we might learn to stand. We grow strong and vibrant in the midst of circumstances involuntarily causing us to quake. We develop a strength of resistance toward the blowing winds of the world and of ready resolve toward God. As we come to KNOW our ability to withstand the continual blowing of the world by the breath of the Spirit, these are the soil conditions of the soul. The steady winds empower us to grow strong and stable bringing flavor to the world around us and stretching our limbs to declare God’s glory and greatness.
 

“Lift up your hands, (O quivering seedling),

in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.”   Psalm 134:2

“Therefore put on the full armor of God,

so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to STAND your ground,
and after you have done everything, to STAND!”   Ephesians 6:13
 
One Seedling among many,
Standing in the Wind!
Pastor Mark
 
 


Pastor Mark’s August Newsletter Blog

Pastor Mark’s August Newsletter Blog

“We Choose to Go to the Moon”

On July 20, 2019, the United States celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon.  Neal Armstrong spoke those memorable words, “That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”   The world watched in awe and amazement as the 2 American Astronauts staked the United States flag in the soil on the moon’s surface. That moment was the conclusion of an impossible dream.   Nearly eight years earlier, on September 12, 1961, at Rice University in Houston, Texas, President John F. Kennedy articulated an audacious dream during his speech to the large crowd. He said,  “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon, in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard…because that is one challenge we are willing to accept…”   What a ridiculous, reckless, irresponsible statement the president declared when the nation had hardly a space program to speak of. History records JFK having second thoughts the day after speaking those crazy words. Yet he had cast a vision of beyond. The dreams of a nation had been sparked to consider the stars. And in a few short years, reckless became a reality, even after he was gone.   2000 years ago, Jesus spoke some ridiculous words to some rather foolish followers.   He said…..

“Go and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20

What a reckless statement to a group of disciples confused, arguably divided and certainly uncertain about their future. Yet the vision had been cast. The dreams of the disciples had been sparked to consider the world, and bring the message of salvation to all who would listen.   In the United States, we might think the message of Christ is diminishing. Fewer people are attending church and our culture has itching ears toward new and improved spirituality. But let’s not be misinformed. The message of Jesus Christ continues to spread across the globe. And in many areas, it’s spreading like an uncontrollable wildfire. According to the Joshua Project, currently there are roughly 2.3 BILLION Christians across the world.    New believers are accepting Christ in the thousands DAILY. Roughly 34,000 in South America, 30,000 in China, 25,000 in Africa and 16,000 Muslims are turning to Jesus DAILY.  Yes, it is sobering to hear that more and more people, especially young adults have left the church in the U.S. and find Jesus’ message antiquated. To be sure, affluence and the myriad of distractions have played a part in this. But also, the church has unfortunately also played its part, often offering a version of religion (focusing on many man made rules and efforts), rather than experiencing an authentic life giving relationship with our living God.   I hope you realize that….

at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, we have much to be hopeful and excited about.

The Holy Spirit is leading us and building a deeper, stronger, faith filled congregation. Sheri, our Treasurer, announced at the Council meeting that pledges are now above $380,000 for our remodel project. What an amazing expression of commitment and resolve to see God continue to build mission and ministry in this community and in our church. Alex Abdallah, our new Student/Family Ministry Director, has jumped in with both feet and is bringing a new level of excitement to our youth program. More people are visiting our church and lots of activities and ministries are moving forward.   Let us continue to carry Christ’s banner. Let us continue to….  “Go and make disciples  –  of all nations…”

We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

We do this because it is a challenge we are willing to accept.

We do this because we are caught up in Christ’s audacious dream.

Let our eyes be drawn heavenward and let our hearts be sparked by the Holy Spirit to chase after it with all the love, faith and perseverance we can muster. And in a few short years, we will all travel to the place that has always been called Home – to be with our Heavenly Father. Your Fellow Foolish Traveler, Pastor Mark