Friday, November 06, 2009

Celebration Church

The night of November 11th, 1989 was one of the longest in my life. Twice in the night, I had to get up and run to the local YMCA to hit the over-ride switch on the heating system. As I would lie in bed, sleepless, I worried about the events of the next day.

  • Would anybody come?
  • Would anybody stay?
  • What in the world had Nancy and I (and one year old Jessica) gotten ourselves into?
My clearest memory of that weekend, however is not about the smelly tarp the Y made us put down to protect their gym floor; nor about the people we met on the phone who volunteered to help that first Sunday by bringing cookies or helping welcome people or work in the nursery. My clearest memory is of leaving the Y, the evening of the 11th, after a downpour and seeing in the sky a beautiful rainbow. It was if God was saying; quit worrying, everything is going to be OK.

We made lots of mistakes right off the bat, but somehow, we eventually got it right. We stopped trying to be “a traditional church that reached young people,” and instead, for United Methodists at the time, became a rather unique church. So much so, that Church Growth Expert Lyle Schaller came to visit, and wrote about Celebration Church in one of his books. Divorce Recovery Workshops, Rock and Roll music, and a weird Coffee Break, all became signature items at Celebration Church.

It is interesting to look back 14 years removed from the experience. Without a doubt, the experience of starting Celebration Church transformed me, and began the journey that continues to this day of experiencing and sharing a God who is not only there, but a God who is real.

It was at Celebration Church that I began allowing my “progressive theology” to openly come to the surface. It was through leading dozens of divorce recovery workshops, that I was forced to wrestle with much of the traditional theology of Christianity regarding broken people. And I will never forget, when we made the transition from being a “traditional” church to a more progressive one, and we used a modern version of the Lord’s Prayer and someone complained by saying to me: “If it, (the King James Version of the prayer) was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for her.” I hadn’t realized that Jesus spoke King James English!

I learned quickly, that I could not please everyone, and that the vision, was what had to be held at the center --- not our own individual desires or wishes. That was a tough lesson, but one that has served me well over the years. As I have often said: “It’s not about you,” I learned that it also was “Not about me!” I may have been responsible for the vision, but it could never be my vision, it had to be God’s!

Creating a church that spoke to “young people”, and remain in the rubric of the United Methodist Church was a challenge in 1989 (it still is today), but I am proud when I think of all the young lives that came to know God through the experience of Celebration Church.

I have come a long way since those heady days of my youth. My children are mostly grown and soon will be on their own. I have learned to be even more comfortable in my skin and with my relationship with God. I am more passionate about the radical love that Jesus modeled for the world, and well aware of the costs of following that radical love.

As Celebration Church celebrates their 20th birthday this weekend, I wish them well, and pray for continued success in the future.

Earning the Award

A few weeks ago, President Barak Obama was awarded one of the highest honors that can be given to a person. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. This is an honor that only three other United States Presidents have ever won. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter have all been honored by the committee.

The Nobel Peace Prize was created by the will of Alfred Nobel, best known at the time of his death as the inventor of dynamite. Nobel, in his will created five awards that are to be given out annually: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace, the first one was awarded in 1901. In 1969 an award for Economics was added as an associated award.

What has been interesting is the flap over President Obama winning the award. Rush Limbaugh called it a joke, former Vice President Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney suggested that Obama should send a message to the Nobel Committee at the Dec. 10 awards ceremony in Oslo, by skipping the ceremony and sending the mother of a fallen soldier to show the importance of the Afghanistan war efforts, and Michael Steele (chairman of the Republican National Committee) suggested that Obama won because of his "star power" rather than meaningful accomplishments.

We can all debate the merits of the honor. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who won the prize in 1984, may have put it best when he said the decision showed that great things are expected from Obama and "wonderful recognition" of his effort to reach out to the Arab world after years of hostility.

I guess that is my hope. That this is the beginning of a new way of looking at the world, and hopefully of the world looking at the United States. But one other thought comes to mind.

On January 27th, 2007, at the Annual Ball of the Munster Chamber of Commerce I was bestowed with the honor of “Citizen of the Year.” The requirements for this honor are: participate in civic activities which do the greatest good for the largest number of people, and be engaged in service and leadership which exemplifies the Chamber’s role in the community.

I hate to say this – I didn’t deserve the reward. I had not met those requirements. But, starting September 15th, 2008 I did. Ever since receiving that honor, I have felt like I needed to do something to “earn it” (I know, bad theology). But it is true. I wonder sometimes if winning that award, prepared me to take a leadership role following the historic floods.

And I wonder, if we can’t all hope and pray for the same thing for Barak Obama. I don’t want him to fail – too much is at stake. Maybe this honor will spur him on to make the USA the leader in a new era, and era of peace and cooperation in the world.


It has been interesting processing all of the comments that I received following the recent series that I did on “End of Life Issues.” Not surprisingly, your comments ran the gamut from --- “I don’t come to church to hear about those kinds of things,” to “thanks, that was the most significant series of sermons you have ever preached.” For me personally, this was a foundational sermon series, one that is essential so that we can build on top of it. But before I can move beyond it, I want to share a little bit more. What follows are my guidelines for Funeral and Memorial Services.

As soon as possible, please notify the church and/or one of the pastor’s of your loved one’s death. We hopefully have already been in dialog with you as you have journeyed down this difficult road, but we want to make sure that we can be ministering with you during this time of loss.

Hopefully, your loved one will have already thought about their funeral/memorial service and the church will have a copy of their desires on file. But if not, you will have a few decisions to make. First, do you want a funeral or a memorial service?

Through the centuries, Christians have marked the end of life with a service of worship; three kinds are offered. FUNERAL SERVICE is a worship service that is held in the church or elsewhere in which the body of the deceased is present. A COMMITTAL SERVICE is held at the graveside, or a crematorium immediately preceding burial or cremation. A committal service typically follows a funeral service, but it can be the only service celebrating the life of the deceased. A MEMORIAL SERVICE is a worship service held at anytime and anyplace, after the body has been disposed of.

Secondly, who do you want to preside over the service? In our Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, it is the policy that the appointed pastor preside over all weddings and funerals, and that only with their consent may another pastor participate in these types of events. I want to state emphatically, that I have no problem if you would like someone else to preside at your funeral (or wedding) – I will be happy to share the service with them, or step out of the way. While I say that, please be aware that not all pastors would agree with me, and they are within their rights to not allow a former pastor to participate in a funeral (or wedding) service.

One other note, I will preside over anyone’s funeral if I can fit it into my schedule, regardless if they are affiliated with the church or not. I believe that this is one of the most important opportunities that we have to live out the love that Jesus demonstrated to us through his life. Please be aware that there may be times when I am unable to officiate even though that is your desire, please know that I grieve that I am not able to be there with you as well.

No two funeral services should be exactly alike. Each service should exemplify the deceased faith. Whether it should be held in the church or a funeral home or some location really depends on the family. I know that for many to hold a funeral in the church and then to have to return for worship on Sunday is difficult.

The service itself consists of prayers, scripture and celebrations of our loved one’s life. Some traditions discourage Eulogies, I do not. I believe that there is no greater testimonial than when a loved one shares some of the joy that their deceased friend brought to their life.

The committal service is a very brief service often held in a chapel at the cemetery, but occasionally (and I prefer) at the graveside. It generally consists of a few passages of scripture, prayers and a benediction. The committal service can be included in the funeral service so there is not a need to travel to the cemetery.

A memorial service is virtually the same as a funeral, the only difference is the body is not present and it can be held at the family’s convenience, often days or weeks later.

A word about music. I know that many will disagree with me, but I believe that any music that was appropriate for the deceased is appropriate in the service. That is because I do not believe that there is a difference between sacred and secular. In my worldview everything is sacred. Music can be played on cd’s or it can be live. If your service is being held at the church, there will be a fee for the organist.

Remember, you will not be attending your own funeral. Nevertheless, you can help ensure that your service is a moving, comforting witness to your relationship with God and your family and friends. Take time to fill out a LIFE INVENTORY so that the service will really reflect your beliefs (and update it often).

One final word, remember, these are my guidelines, and not all pastors may agree with them, keep that in mind as you plan for the future.


Every morning as I go on my 1-4 mile walk (depending on the weather and how much time I have), I listen to a book on my I-Pod. It has proven to be a great use of my time, plus it makes the time go so much faster and my dog (Zeke) doesn’t seem to mind.

I finally got around to listening to John Grogan’s huge hit Marley and Me. Once I got over the reader of the book, whom I could not stand (which happened to be John Grogan himself), I loved the book.

If you are not familiar with the book, or the movie, Marley and Me is a “true” story of Grogan and his family pet, a very large, very neurotic Labrador Retriever. At times you think that the family is as crazy as the dog because the put up with his behavior. But overall it was a powerful book.

As I walked an cried, listening to the story of having to put Marley “to sleep,” my mind couldn’t help wander back to Nahum and Zephie, the two dogs that nancy and I have had the privilege of sharing our home with and had to make the horrible choice of putting to sleep.

Nahum (named after the Biblical prophet – find out what the word means in Hebrew and you will know why I chose it!) was the first dog I had as an adult. I got him from a pound in Stanley County, NC while I was a student pastor attending Duke Divinity School. I would drive the 100 miles into Durham and drop Nahum off at the apartment of a beautiful young woman that I happened to be dating. While I was in class he would chew up whatever he could find, including the vanity in her bathroom. What is amazing is that a little less than a year later she decided to become my wife and accepted my wayward dog as well. When the girls were all young (Haley was just a baby) we had to put him down, and buried him with my childhood dog Zorro at my parent’s lake cottage in North Webster.

It took almost five years before the girls and I could convince Nancy that we needed a dog (You have to understand that Nancy is/was a cat person). Finally, once cold spring morning we came home with a Shitzu of questionable parentage and home life from the South Suburban Humane shelter in Chicago Heights. In keeping with our biblical theme we named him Zephaniah, or Zephie for short.

Zephie was the most wonderful dog I have ever owned (not counting Zeke, of course). Zephie would greet me at the door, and was known to run at me and jump into my arms. There is no greater joy that to be greeted with unconditional love when you come home. We had no idea where he had come from, other than he had some weird quirks about him. But he loved people (and unfortunately loved joggers and bicycles), and was a great companion. The only thing I knew about him was that he had a heart murmur. Doc Matthews (the greatest vet I know!), would tell me every now and again, “you know he has a heart murmur”, and I would say, “sure I know.” But I never understood what he was trying to tell me.

Suddenly, Zephie became sick and when I took him to see Doc Matthews he said to me, “You remember how he has a heart murmur, well it is catching up with him.” Our wonderful boy was suffering from congestive heart failure. We did everything we could to help with the problem, but finally it was just too much.

I will never forget that last day, September 24th 2007, when I took him for one last walk, (and had to carry him back home), his last ride in the car to Doc Matthew’s clinic in Cal City, or the ride to Crown Point and Burns Funeral home and animal crematory. I carried him all the way. And like Marley, he will never be forgotten!

Animals bring such joy to our lives. This time it wasn’t as hard to convince Nancy that we needed a new puppy in our lives, and with a little help from Laura Cyrus, Ezekiel (Zeke for short) came into our home and into our hearts. Every day, Zeke and I enjoy God’s great creation together. No he doesn’t jump into my arms, but as soon as I sit down at home, he is in my lap. He is, truly, my best friend!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Managing Multiple Priorities

Last week the staff and I attended a seminar to help us deal with organization and managing multiple priorities. I have to admit, that I went with pretty low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised. Here are five lessons that I brought home and hope to incorporate into my life.

1) I need to close my office door at certain times of the day, so that I can find un-interrupted time to get priorities done. Those priorities being, sermon writing, preparation for Bible Study/WWE, writing for newsletter, bulletins, etc.

My weekly schedule will be as follows (of course always subject to emergencies à which often consume my life!), I no doubt will make some modifications as I try to make this work. I will not answer the phone, check emails, etc, during my door closed times.

Sunday: 7:00 – 12:30 Worship
3:30 – 5:30 Holy Adventure Study
Monday: Day Off
Tuesday: 9:30 – 11:00 am Staff Meeting
2:00 – 4:00 Sermon Prep (Door Closed)
Wednesday: My Hospital Day
7:30 – 8:00 Prayer Partner
9:30 – 11:30 Prep Time (Door Closed)
5:30 pm – 8:30 WWE
Thursday: 7:00 – 8:00 Bible Study
8:30 – 11:00 Every other Thursday LARRI Steering Committee
4:30 – 6:00 pm 9:45 Worship Planning
Friday: My Hospital Day
7:00 – Noon Sermon Prep (Door Closed)
Saturday: Day Off (Hospitals for emergencies)

2) I need to remove from my life some of the extraneous stuff that I let steal my time. Better use of delegation, remove some of the clutter that takes up so much of my time, etc.

3) Multi-tasking is a oxymoron
Sure I can do more than one thing at a time, but I can’t do either of them very well (hence the need to have “closed door time”)

4) I need to re-read Stephen Covey’s book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

5) There are lots of great resources out there to help me do my tasks better. We don’t use our software very well, so we are going to get trained in how to use it better.

Web resources that you might find helpful
Has a list of phone codes so that you can get off of the annoying automated answering services and actually get a human being.
2. 1-800-4664-411 (1-800-goog-411)
Free 411 service that will actually dial the call (for free as well)
Family calendar program so that the whole families calendars can be coordinated

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spong on Eternity

I just finished John Shelby Spong's newest (and he says last) book: Eternal Life: A New Vision. I found it to be a fascinating, if not difficult book. The first 3/4th of the book in which he lays out his issues with how "religion" has death with eternal issues was fascinating (and I believe right on!) It is in the last quarter of the book when he begins to talk in all kinds of circular language and lay out his thoughts of what happens when you die, that one really has to pay attention to his train of thought.

Overall, what Spong suggests is that "religion" has become a security blanket for most people to keep us from having to deal with the reality of our death. We have created this pie in the sky notion of heaven (with gold streets no less) to make it beyond wonderful -- if not beyond creditable. The idea of sitting on some cloud and strumming a harp all day sound like hell not heaven to me. And I think that the crazy attitudes that we have toward death and funerals are not healthy!

Until we can embrace the reality of death, it always hangs like a black cloud over our lives. Quoting Spong: "I, like St Francis before me can welcome death as my brother. I like in the appreciation that it is in the presence of death that actually makes my life precious, since it calls me to like each day fully, and it is by living fully that I center the timelessness of life." Or as St. Francis put it "It is in giving that we receive, it is in loving that we are loved, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven and ultimately it is in dying that we live."

I love life! But I think that I love it because I know that every day is precious, every moment is fleeting, and every opportunity is a once in a life time opportunity.

Thank you Bishop Spong for sharing your story.
To hear my take on death and dying (and thus ultimately living) listen to my sermon series that I just completed.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wrestling with Steve

Three years ago I began writing this blog that I titled Wrestling With God. In my profile, I declared that I was a United Methodist Pastor who was frustrated with American Christianity. It has become an outlet for me to share my random thoughts about life and the Christian journey.

Today, I begin a new adventure. While I hope to keep writing in my blog I have decided to take on the challenge of writing a weekly email to the Ridge Church family. Each week I will share something about what I am doing (reading, preparing, etc) as well as highlight some upcoming events at Ridge Church.

I hope that you will join me on this journey. If you wish to receive these emails, just drop me a note and let me know and I will add you to the list.

For the next three weeks I will be preaching on a subject that most of us would rather ignore. If there is anything that I have learned in my 25 years as a pastor is that we want to do everything that we can to pretend that we are going to be the one who is going to outwit death.

The funny thing is, even the liturgy of the church does the same thing in our funeral service. Why are we so afraid of death? It is going to happen to each of us. I am convinced that we must embrace death if we fully want to live.

Sunday, I will begin this series looking at the reality of death, and how confronting it, can bring us comfort.I hope that you will join us this Sunday, and that you will invite a friend to join you as we wrestle with this important topic.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Not About YOU!

What has happened to altruism? As I listen to the debate over health care (and read the pundits, and especially the editorial cartoons) both sides of the debate have focused the issue around: “What’s in it for me!” That seems to be the driving force in our society today.

Maybe I am naive. I do consider myself a follower of the most altruistic person who ever lived. And I believe that is one of the major goals in being a follower of his – to put God and others before you. But that is not what being a Christian has become. We focus more on, surprise, surprise – “What’s in it for me,” than taking care of our brothers and sisters. Am I getting into heaven is more important that is my neighbor hungry.

I don’t care where you come out on the political spectrum, but if you are going to claim the name of Jesus – You need to stop asking what you are getting out of it. Or as JFK once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

It’s not about you . . .

Friday, July 17, 2009

RUMC Newsletter article

I feel like I am finally beginning to catch-up. Isn’t that what summer is supposed to be for? My office is (after moving back to my original office) slowly getting organized. Pictures are on the walls, and most everything is put away – Those of you who doubt miracles shouldn’t anymore. Over the last few days I have gotten about 50% of the next years sermon’s planned – still trying to come up with an idea for advent. The overall theme for the coming year is being taken from my sermon on July 26th – Life IN Christ. Everything we will be doing will talk about how we can have Life IN Christ.

Even more exciting is some of the “stuff” that is growing under the surface. We are not just tweaking the newsletter – a whole new source of information is coming, one that will better link our church together. Along with that, I am going to begin sending out a weekly email to anyone who would like to receive it – that will begin no later than the first week of September. Make sure we have a current e-mail address for you by sending it to

Tom Labus is working on revamping our Website – he saw my column in last month’s Ridge News and has volunteered to help us get it going. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with that. THANKS TOM! As if that isn’t enough, he is also working on helping us get the technology in place so that we can start doing a live webcast of at least one service on Sunday mornings. We will start with streaming audio as soon as we can, and then, once the kinks are worked up, and we can acquire some equipment, we will begin streaming video as well. That is exciting!

I also mentioned in my last column that I would like to start using illustrations during our traditional worship services. The next Sunday a number of you stopped me to talk about it and shared all kinds of ideas. We will be putting a proposal together in the next few weeks, outlining what it will take to make PowerPoint possible during my sermons. I can’t wait because I know that many of us learn visually rather than simply through hearing, so I know that it will enhance the worship experience for many of you.

One finally thing that I am excited about: as we move more and more into our Cluster group (the Mid-Lake Cluster comprising of Ridge, Dyer, Griffith, Crown Point, Cedar Lake and Merrillville UMC’s), I keep finding myself saying – “We can do this even better as a cluster.” I keep finding opportunities, that as we grow together, will make us more effective in ministry. If you want more information about our cluster, talk to Keith Howard – he will be glad to share all about it.

Summer is supposed to be about slowing down. Here at Ridge, we are gearing up for an exciting year!


Many of you have been asking me when I am planning on putting together another tour. Well, now that the flood relief efforts are well under way I am excited to announce that I am planning a Pilgrimage to Italy in September of 2010. I have never been, so I am looking forward to this opportunity to visit Rome and so much more. If you are interested in the journey, drop me a note, or join me for an informational meeting at Ridge Church on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7:00 pm in room 106.

Catching Up

Wow, I can't believe that it has been a month since my last post.

I have been very busy these last few weeks. The best news is that I am now PAST president of the Munster Rotary Club. What a great title to have. I look forward to the day when I can say I am Past President of LARRI, but that term has another year to go!

Jessica got back last weekend from her adventures in Australia. We are enjoying having her home, but I think she is looking forward to heading back to Indy in a few weeks. You can read about her adventures here.

LARRI (Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery), the flood recovery group, has been very busy. We hired a new director and have begun really making traction beyond the muck and guts to the restoring and rebuilding. However, we have a long way to go. We have always said that things would take two years to get finished -- Ten months since the flood, I can tell you right now, that is not going to happen!

We are working on a big anniversary "celebration" to take place in mid September. As the plans get firmed up, I will let you all know!

We had a great celebration for the 3rd of July. Ridge Church sold hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, etc and made quite a bit of money. The money raised pays for our Vacation Bible School (which is going on right now!). We provide the VBS free to the community. The following weekend was the Music Fest and the youth sold pop and corn on the cob. It might be time to find a new gig, since the new festival is drawing a different crowd from the old Jazz and Blues Fest that was held on the Ridge.

Tomorrow the youth leave on their mission trip to Kentucky. They are once again working with Appalachian Service Project. I did ASP when I was a youth.

Tonight, Lindsey, Jessica and I are going to the Theatre at the Center to see Footloose. I will let you know what I think . . .

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Annual Conference and other assorted stuff

I keep saying I am going to do a better job writing, but then life gets in the way. In the last two weeks a great deal has taken place. Recovery is getting better, but every now and then I am reminded that I had surgery 3 weeks ago. I was able to play golf (9 holes on a very short course) on Monday, but I have been stiff and sore ever since.

The hardest part of the last week and a half is finding out that two families that I am close with are suffering through significant marital issues. Neither are members of my church and it has been interesting to see how their respective churches have handled the situations. Please pray for those families.

We began our summer series on Paul on Sunday and we looked at the transformation that took place in his life. I do not preach this weekend, but on the 28th I will continue the series by looking at what Paul means by Justification by Faith. Hope you will come join us.

I listened to a couple of books and finished another. Both of the books that I listened to were somewhat disappointing. I have read most of Steve Berry's other books and really enjoyed them. The Romanov Prophecy was, a big disappointment. Now I need to say that I listened to an abridgement, and often I find that really impacts a book, and that may have been the problem here. The book just didn't flow well. It seemed to jump and material seemed to be missing. The story is about the desire of Russia to find re-establish the Tsar, and the search begins to find relatives of Nicholas II. The book picks up on the theory that two of Nicholas children survived the assassination by the Bolsheviks at Yekaterinburg, July 17, 1918. The story is a little far fetched. In 2008 DNA testing proved that the entire family died on that bloody night.

The second book had the exact opposite problem. Thuderstruck, by Erik Larson (author of Devil in the White City and Issac's Storm). I loved both of his previous works, this book however gets lost in a haze of irrelevant details. In his introduction he warns the reader of his chasing many rabbits, and he certainly is guilty! Thuderstruck is about Marconi, the inventor of wireless communication and Hawley Crippen a rather unlikely murderer who is caught because of Marconi's invention. The book was fascinating, it just overwhelmed me with irrelevant minutia.

The third book was lent to me by a friend: Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of soppy love stories, especially if the center around a minister (What was the name of that stupid TV show???), but this book really surprised me. It is the story of Kate and her family and how their lives have changed and morphed following the death of her husband in a tragic accident. Kate, following his death, goes to seminary and becomes a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service. She is an excellent writer and her story needs to be told over and over again. I highly recommend this book.

Next week I take Lindsey to get registered for Indiana University, and then I get to go to Ball State to attend the FIRST Annual Conference Session of the brand new Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. I am VERY excited . . .

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I have been way behind in getting some of my reading on my blog. I have finished a number of books that I want to share with you.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. A powerful and well written book about Afghanistan over the last 30 years. I read this for a book club that Nancy and I am a part of and the most common comment was concern over the violence in the book. I too have great concern over the violence, but not because it is written but because I imagine that it is all too true. What I found most interesting about the book is that it is written by a man but tells the story through the perspective of a woman. He does a great job, but I think, at times it influences his storytelling. I think that I have a better handle on the situation in Afghanistan after reading this book and understand some of the horrors of the Taliban. I would highly recommend the book.

Seasons of the Machete by James Patterson. I am a big fan of the Alex Cross novels -- this is not one of them. It is however, a fascinating book. Instead it is the story of two serial killers who are the most sought after contract killers in the world. The story goes really fast, and keeps you on the edge of your seat, as most Patterson novels do. It is an older book (written in 1977 -- I bought it at the church rummage sale), and if you like Patterson you probably will like this one. I don't give it high marks, but I would recommend it.

The Appeal by John Grisham. I have read almost everything that Grisham has written. This book follows his typical pattern. It centers around a small town in Mississippi that has the highest cancer rate in the country. A law suit is filed against the New York owner of the company that has caused the pollution, and the story centers around the case going to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The intrigue in the story is around a vacant seat on the Supreme Court and the attempt to buy the seat. It is a well written story --- hard to put down --- and one that I would highly recommend.

Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin Kearns. I am a big student of the American Civil War, and this is one of the best treatments on Abraham Lincoln and his relationship with the men who would become members of his cabinet This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is not an easy read, nor a quick read. But if you are at all interested in Lincoln and his motivations, it is worth the effort --- You will be rewarded.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I listened to an abridged version since I had read the book this winter and it was our book group book. The book is great as I shared earlier, but the abridgement was horrible too many important things were missing. It was a big disappointment. Take the time to read the book!

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Wow talk about a blast from the past. I haven't read Hemingway since High School. This is the latest book for our book group. The preliminary comments from the other members were that they hated it -- I loved it. I think they hated it because the had a hard time imagining that anyone could live the way that Jake the main character and his friends live. But if my memory is correct, the story is rather autobiographical about Hemingway and his friends. The story centers around the bull fights in Pamplona, Spain. Although it really is about relationships and love. If you like stream of consciousness style of writing and hearing about the Bohemian lifestyle of the 1920's you will love this book. I am going to read some more Hemingway!


Last month Lindsey and a number of other students from Munster High School traveled to Anaheim, CA to compete in the International Career Development Competition. Students from throughout the world and all fifty states participated in the competition. Lindsey and her partner Sarah received a top 10 in their role play.


Thanks to everyone for all the phone calls, emails, facebook notes and of course cards. I am doing much better today, but not as good as I planned. I had planned on preaching this morning, but Friday I chickened out. Probably a pretty good thing. My voice is still pretty shot from the anesthesia and I don't have a lot of energy.

The surgery went great. From what I understand, the doctor said that my gall bladder was pretty inflamed and had evidence that I had passed a number of stones and that their were others on the way -- so I got it out at a good time.

I really don't remember anything about the surgery. They came to get me, and before we were even in the surgery suite I was out --- next thing I know I am in recovery and ready to go home. Recovery has been slower than I expected. I have had quite a bit of discomfort and then the whole issue of getting the plumbing working properly again (if you get my drift). Tomorrow night I will lead the last class of DISCIPLE IV and on Tuesday I plan on attending Rotary, but that is about it for the week. I had talked of going back in the office on Wednesday, but I kind of doubt it right now. Maybe I will go back on Friday?

Regardless, I don't have to preach this coming weekend since it is graduation Sunday and Lindsey is graduating. I know, I can't believe it! It is going to be really weird with her gone this fall. The following Sunday we will have an open house for her. If you are in the area, stop on by anytime from 4 -8 pm, it should be lots of fun :).

Thanks again to everyone for their thoughts and prayers --- they have made a huge difference. Now if I can just remember that I am not 20 anymore . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nelson's BBQ Chicken

John Mybeck was one of the best ambassadors for Ridge Church. Whenever we had an event, he was always out inviting and encouraging people to come. Since his passing, his son Kevin has informed me that I have the privilege (responsibility) to sell the tickets that John would have sold. Kevin told me that means I have to sell 100. Some come and be my first one sold!

Nelson's BBQ will be back at Ridge Church on Friday, June 12 from 4-7 pm. We will be selling BBQ chicken halves just like last fall. We are looking to sell as many as we can in advance, so we have set up a link on the Ridge Church web page for ordering tickets online.

We will also sell them on Sundays prior to the event and in the church office during the week. We need to sell about 600 to make the event worthwhile, so we need help getting the word out and getting the tickets sold. Please take time to forward the link to local friends and family who may be interested.

Tickets are $5 in advance. Online they are $5 as well + a $1 charge per order to defray the postage and credit card fees -- we are mailing the online ticket purchases to make the process flow smoothly on the day of the event. There likely be limited amounts of chicken available for sale on the day of the event, but we are charging $6 to encourage advance ticket purchases.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for your support.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Butler Magazine

Check out the cover of the most recent Butler Magazine.

Yep, There in the upper left corner is Jessica.

She may be off in Australia having a good time (and hopefully studying) but that is not what her pictures suggest. -- Butler has not forgotten her. Nice article too about the Jordan School of Fine Arts.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Anyone who is interested in environment issues should check out this blog. It is called Green as A Thistle and it is written by a journalist in Toronto. She has a new book out called Sleeping Naked is Green which looks real interesting. Not available in USA until next month.


In January I started feeling totally run down. Not surprising since I had not taken any time off since the floods had hit in September and had been juggling doing my church work and serving on the LARRI (Lakeshore Regional Recovery of Indiana) executive committee. I decided to make an appointment with my doctor, because frankly, I thought i was on the verge of a heart attack. Since that initial appointment, I have been having tests, tests, and more tests done. As I shared last time, we think (hope?) that most of this has to do with my thyroid. But, just to make matters a little more fun, I also have gall stones. I will have my gall bladder removed on Wednesday, May 27th, and will take a week or so to recover. At this point, I am scheduled to preach on the 31st, which I plan on doing; as well as leading our final DISCIPLE IV class that evening. I do not plan on doing anything else!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Catching Up

Can't believe that it has been almost a month since I posted. It has been a crazy month, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Holy week was kind of typical of this whole time --- death of a parishioner, with the funeral on the Saturday before Easter, losing the director for LARRI (Lakeshore Regional Recovery of Indiana), and some health issues that I have been dealing with.

The good news (for me at least) is that I think I am getting a better handle on why I have felt like crap since the first of the year. Sure part of it has been trying to juggle the church and all of my community responsibilities (especially LARRI), but that isn't the whole story.

Having seen four different doctors in the last month, I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto Disease (hypothyroidism) -- which is the opposite of Lindsey's Graves Disease. What this means is I will be taking synthroid the rest of my life --- not a real big deal, but hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will start to get some of my energy back. Still chasing a few other rabbits, but I think this was the big one.

I am looking forward to Haley's participation in the Munster Theater Companies production of Carousel this week. Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7pm, and Sunday afternoon at 2pm. All performances are held at the Munster High School Auditorium.

I have finished a number of books and will try to get them posted later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

12 Life Lessons

I did not have a manuscript for my sermon last Sunday, so if you want a copy you will have to listen to it. I did put up the rest of my notes on the church web site.

A number of you have asked for the list of my 12 lessons. I wish I had added a 13th --- take off your shoes whenever possible.

So here are my twelve lessons that I wish I lived a lot better than I do.

1) Live every day as if it matters – because it does
Stewart’s death had a profound impact on me. I was 25 years old when he died. I didn’t think that 23 year old got sick and died, but obviously they do. I had to rethink my understanding of life. It was interesting because it didn’t make me a libertine thinking that you only live once, so grab all the gusto that you can (boy that would make a great tag line for a beer). Instead I VALUED life more. And as my girls have grown, I sense the hurried pace of life. You see, I don’t FEEL psychologically any different than I was at 25 or 30, but I now understand and appreciate how quickly life goes by.

2) Find something that you love doing – and stick with it.
I have the greatest job in the world – but I also have the worst. I get to be with you when you get married, when you have children, when you celebrate lifetime accomplishments. I get to be a part of all those wonderful moments in your live.

I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to be with you at those milestone moments. And to be able to baptize a child – WOW – I have a great job.

But I also get to be with you when the sky is dark. One year ago, John Mybeck and I stood in the church parking lot crying as he shared with me the news that he had cancer. I have been with many of you when loved ones have died, I have visited you in the hospital, at home and at nursing homes. And it is never easy. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten in my car and cried as I drove away.

But wow – what a privilege. I wouldn’t trade jobs with any of you.
Figure out what makes you get excited and keep on doing it!

3) Be positive and enthusiastic in everything that you do
We all know people who are black clouds. Everywhere they go they try to bring everyone down with them.

Be one of those people who are Tiggers – full of life and joy. Sure you might break a few things along the way – but you will do it with great joy!

4) Be generous

5) Forgive yourself

Girl in my first church . . .

6) Forgive others

Who do you think is being harmed when we hold on to grudges

7) Stop blaming others

8) Don’t journey through life alone

9) Dream BIG --- Dream even bigger!

10) Be bold and courageous

(Joshua 1:9 NRSV) I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

11) Leave things better than when you found them

All I Really Need To Know I learned in Kindergarten – Robert Fulghum
Storyteller’s Creed
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.

12) LOVE and be loved

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lenten Thoughts

It’s almost here. I have a hard time believing that Easter is almost upon us. For me, this year has flown by which has been hard because of all the changes that it is bringing. Eleven years ago. When Nancy and I arrived in Munster we brought along with us 3 girls. Jessica was entering the fifth grade, Lindsey was entering second and Haley was about to start Kindergarten. I no longer have three little girls. They are all grown up.

Jessica has been in Australia since February and will stay there until the middle of July. She is studying this semester at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. From my conversations with her, she is having a great time. Lindsey is a senior at Munster High School and will be attending Indiana University this fall. And Haley, little Haley in her Dorothy shoes (red sparkly shoes) just turned 16, so you know what that means (you have been warned!) Time goes by so quickly.

I have been thinking about life a lot lately (working on a “final sermon” will make you do that). What I have come to realize is that no matter how hard you try to capture life – to slow it down – to control it – the less control you have. Life moves on with or without us. The goal is to enjoy each and every moment that you have, because none of us know how many moments are available to us.

I know that I am the poster child for saying things like that but not heading my own advice. But maybe if we each held each other accountable, we would all do better at slowing down and smelling the roses.

As Easter draws closer – remember the one for whom we celebrate. Jesus, the Lord who invites us to enjoy the journey of life; the one who invites us to find shalom in each and every day. And if Easter teaches us anything, it should be teaching us that at the end of the day – a new day will dawn. Thanks for letting me join you on the journey.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seeing God

I came across this today and I wanted to share it with you. It struck me bacause it really tied in with the devotion from HOLY ADVENTURE that I shared in this morning.

A man whispered, “God, speak to me.”
And a meadowlark sang. But the man did not hear.
So the man yelled, “God, speak to me!”Thunder rolled across the
sky. But the man did not listen.
The man looked around and said, “God, let me see you.” A star shone brightly. But he noticed it not.
And the man shouted, “God, show me a miracle.”And a life was born. But the man was unaware.
So, the man cried out in despair, “Touch me, God, and let me know that you are here!” Whereupon God reached down and touched the man. But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

I hope that you can see and encounter God throughout your day!

Friday, March 06, 2009


I have been reading (and enjoying) my devotional for Lent -- Holy Adventure. I took it with me to my LARRI meeting in Merrillville, so that I might read it if I got there early, or at lunch, etc. Unfortunately, I left my book at the American Red Cross office. So now I am going to be behind. I hate the thought of not getting it until next week, so I will probably have to make a road trip this afternoon. I hate that!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Lindsey and her partner Sarah competed this week in Indianapolis in the State DECA competition. Don't ask me what DECA is, it has something to do with marketing . . . She and Sarah compete in the travel and tourism area.

The team from Munster High School won 1st place in the competition --- Lindsey and Sarah took 3rd in their event which means they get to go (once again) to the international competition which is being held in California at the end of April.

Way to go!

Pancake Breakfast

If you like pancakes, it is a great weekend to live in the Region! On Saturday, the Munster Chamber of Commerce will have it's annual pancake breakfast at Applebee's on Ridge Road in Munster.

Applebee's does all of the cooking, the Munster Chamber Board of Directors get to do the serving. So you can come out and let me serve you pancakes! If you need tickets, give me a holler --- I have a bunch. Every ticket gets entered into a raffle for some great prizes!

Sunday morning is the Annual Lion's Club pancake breakfast at Munster High School. I am not a member of the Lion's but I know that they do lots of great things for the community.

Come out and support the local community and all the things that take place.
See you this weekend!

Monday, March 02, 2009


Busy, busy week -- and this one seems no better.

Trying to keep up with Jessica in Australia via her blog. She had some computer problems, but hopefully they are taken care of. Getting money to her is a little more difficult that I thought it would be. It sounds like she is having a great time. Nancy and I had hoped to go and visit her, but it isn't going to work. Maybe someday we will get there to follow her adventure!

Doing my best to keep up with my daily Lenten devotional. Yesterday, I got behind, so I will have to do two this morning. I see a sermon series based on this little book (Holy Adventures). While attending Ash Wednesday service last week I came up with, what I hope is an awesome idea for a Good Friday service. Just got a few services in between that I need to get organized.

Hoe everyone has a great week!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I attended a wonderful (can I say that?) memorial service for Myron Nidetz at Temple Beth El tonight. Myron was one of a kind!!! I was privileged to get to know him through Munster Rotary Club, Munster Education Foundation and the Munster Chamber of Commerce. But it was the Arts that were most important to Myron.

At the service the Temple used a brand new prayer book that I am going to have to borrow so that I can "steal" some of the prayers --- it is a beautiful new addition to their worship service. I am looking forward to March 20th when I will have the opportunity to preach at their Friday evening Shabbat service.

Myron's daugher gave a beautiful eulogy of her father, as did Chancellor Dr. Bruce W. Bergland from IU Northwest. His analogy of life being a quilt and when someone dies a part of it being ripped out was powerful.

Myron will be missed by many --- but especially by all who love and value the Arts in Northwest Indiana!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fish Fry

Ridge Church is having the first of three Lenten Fish Fry's this friday, February 27th. Come and join us for this great meal. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

Hope to see you Friday night.

Lenten Journey

Today is the first day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday. We call it Ash Wednesday because Christians come to worship and have ashes placed upon their foreheads in the sign of a cross. Why do we do this?

According to the United Methodist Book of Worship:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: the first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation. During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins and had separated themselves from the community of faith were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to participation in the life of the Church. In this way, the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the need we all have to renew our faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent; by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before our Creator and Redeemer.

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, so that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I hope that as you begin this Lenten Journey that you will take the time to truly do those things. This year I, and the staff, are going to work through Bruce Epperly’s book Holy Adventure. After one day, I am really enjoying the journey!

Have a great Lent!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Random thoughts

This has been one of those weeks. It is only Wednesday, but I am already beat. Probably should have known it was gonna be one of those weeks when it started with Duke losing on Sunday evening to Boston College --- we're not supposed to lose to BC!

Monday was spent cleaning at home and running all over the place. Monday night, in that amazing sport for the athletically challenged DARTBALL we lost all three games. The other team really didn't beat us. we beat ourselves. It was the classic case of looking past the games and not playing very well. At least no one has been accused of steroid use!!

We have three members of the church very ill with cancer, and a couple of others who have been sick as well. Along with that Sarah's dad flunked a stress test so Nathan and Sarah have headed to Lafayette to be with him today as he has angiogram.

Last night we had a meeting of six churches who are looking at the possibility of coming together in what is known as a cluster. This is the latest, greatest thing from the United Methodist Church. In my 25 years of ministry I can't tell you how many of the latest and greatest things I have seen. My usually response is: "This too shall pass."

There may be some great benefit from this idea, if (and it is a BIG IF) we really are willing to work at it and set aside our territorial natures --- OK, I said it was a big if!

The big issue was who to include? And I will be honest, there are no easy answers. I am inclined to believe that the configuration we have come up with makes the most sense for the future --- one church is a stretch. We are talking with the United Methodist Churches in Dyer, Griffith, Merrillville, Crown Point and Cedar Lake. Yep, Cedar Lake today is a stretch, but 10 years from now, the are going to be more like us than even they can imagine.

Keep tuned in, it is going to get interesting.

Friday, Jessica leaves for Australia. She will be there until the middle of July. I am really excited for her, but really for the first time it feels like she is leaving.

I need to wrap up, I am off to the funeral for Pat Galvin. Pat and I served together on the Jim and Betty Dye foundation board. He is a huge loss.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin & Lincoln

On February 12, 1809, two men --- one near Hodgenville, Kentucky, the other in Shrewsbury, England were born. Two men who would change the world forever.

On this, the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, I am deep in thought. Which man has had a greater impact on the world --- and 100 years from now, which will be more significant.

By way of press coverage of their birthdays the answer seems quite obvious. Lincoln has had all kinds of press, while many do not even recognize that Darwin was born the same day.

Lincoln has always been a hero of mine --- that is probably the product of growing up in Illinois, and also being a student of Civil War history. I have read numerous biographies on Lincoln, including Carl Sandburg and Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln's bodyguard). I am currently reading Team of Rivals and am loving it.

Darwin, on the other hand, has always been an enigma. Sure, I learned about his theories in school, and I grew up in a church that had no problems with evolution. But other than watching Inherit the Wind, the rather inaccurate movie about the Scopes Trial, I really know nothing about him.

I keep abreast of the new, and i think ridiculous debate about Intelligent Design (Creationism in sheep's clothing), but I have never read Origin of Species, or any biographies about Darwin. I think it is probably time . . .

What difference does it make? Evolution vs. Creationism is one of the litmus tests for conservative Christianity. The fear that if we begin to believe in evolution, the whole religious house of cards will cave in is a huge fear for many. I don't get the debate because religion and science are not incompatible for me, like it is to so many.

Lincoln will always be revered for his role in the emancipation and the elimination of slavery in America. But as we all know, racism persists even to this day. Getting rid of that taint is a much deeper problem. I am not sure Lincoln would be possible without Darwin and his understanding of our interconnectedness. Slowly, ever so slowly, we are understanding that we are all connected to each other: white, black, brown, yellow, red --- we are all children of the same God.

100 years from now I think we will look back on Darwin as the one who ushered in the new age that is emerging. He has opened our eyes to realities that seemed impossible only a few years ago.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

I just finished Mitch Albom's book: The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I read it for a book group that I am a part of. I have to start out by saying that I found it pretty sappy. It is a quick read, very predictable, and too cute for me. I think that I would have liked it if the title wasn't THE five people, because I hope I meet more than five!

Mitch Albom is the author of the moving Tuesdays With Morrie which was a powerful and profound book. I think he wanted to do the same in this one (actually I heard an interview with him, and that seems like exactly his goal.) He missed the mark!

The book is about Eddie --- a war veteran, wounded in the Philippians during WWII. Eddie suffers through a debilitating wound, the death of the love of his life and a cruel and uncaring father. Eddie believes that he has lived an unimportant life. On his 83rd birthday, Eddie, who still works at an Oceanside amusement park dies while trying to save a little girl from getting killed in an accident at the park.

Eddie finds himself in heaven where he has to meet five people who have crossed paths with him in his life and help explain his life to him. Like I said, it is pretty hokey! These five people try to show the meaning and purpose to Eddie's life.

It is not a bad read --- you can finish it in a few hours. But it does not live up to the hype, nor the expectations following Tuesdays With Morrie.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike

I just hear on the news over lunch that author John Updike passed away after a battle with lung cancer. Updike is probably best known for the Rabbit series (which if you have never read you should), but I remember him best for a little known book that was assigned by a Church History Professor at Duke (Bob Gregg) called A Month of Sunday's. I am not sure if we were actually assigned the book, or if we were told to put it on our summer reading list (which 25 years later I have not finished all the books on . . .). I learned more about what I was getting into from Bob Gregg's Church history class than all of my other classes combined. THANKS!

Last year I read what may have been Updike's last novel, The Terrorist. This is a powerful story of how a young man can get caught up and enrolled in terrorist activity. A wonderful and thought provoking story.

Sex, religion, science and culture always seemed to be the currents in Updike's stories and none may be as provocative as Roger's Version about a young computer geeks attempt to prove God. As we remember the death of this great American author, I encourage you to take some time and go back and read some of his classic works.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Agnostic about the afterlife

The other day in my reading I came across an article by Marcus Borg in which he made the comment that he was "a committed Christian and a complete agnostic about the afterlife." I find that to be a fascinating concept, because I too would say the same thing.

If you look up the word agnostic in the dictionary you find that the etymology of the word is Greek agnostos which means unknown, or unknowable. If I am fully honest, I don’t know and in this lifetime thing that afterlife is by definition unknowable. Believing about an afterlife really has nothing to do with whether or not there is one or what it is ultimately like.

My theology, as it has developed over the years, does not follow the popular theology that has risen up recently that places such an emphasis on aferlife. I, like Borg, would suggest that is one of the negative characteristics of modern Christianity. By putting such an emphasis on afterlife, we somewhat mute our responsibility in this life.

When I was in college, I wrote my senior thesis on John Wesley and his affects on the English Working Class Movement. My argument was that John Wesley, unintentionally held the English workers from striving for improved working conditions because of the promised reward in the afterlife. Karl Marx argued basically the same thing.

Borg offers some other reasons why he is agnostic about the afterlife. I think he is right on and I will just quote the rest of the article (I wish I knew where I got it from).

When the afterlife is emphasized, it almost inevitable that Christianity becomes a religion of requirements and rewards. If there is a blessed afterlife, it seems unfair to most people that everyone gets one, regardless of how they have lived. So there must be something that differentiates those who get to go to heaven from those who don’t – and that something must be something we do, either believing or behaving or some combination of both. And this counters the central Christian claim that salvation is by grace, not by meeting requirements.

Another problem: the division between those who "measure up" and those who don’t leads to further distinctions: between the righteous and the unrighteous, the saved and the unsaved.

Another problem: an emphasis on the afterlife focuses our attention on the next world rather than on this world. Most of the Bible, on the other hand, focuses our attention on our lives in this world and the transformation of this world. At the heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the petition for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth: your kingdom come on earth, as it already is in heaven. There is nothing in the Lord’s Prayer asking that God take us to heaven when we die.

As yet another reason for my agnosticism about an afterlife: does it involve the survival of personal identity and reunion with those we have known in this life? Are family reunions part of the afterlife? For some people, this is much to be desired, for family has been the primary source of love and joy in this life. But for perhaps an equally large number of people, family has been the primary source of pain and unhappiness. So, are we going to be with those people forever?

What I do affirm about what happens after death is very simple: when we die, we do not die into nothingness, but we die into God. In the words of the apostle Paul, we live unto the Lord and we die unto the Lord. So whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

For me, that is enough. My not knowing anything more does not bother me at all.

And I am very wary when the Christian gospel becomes a message about the afterlife. I am convinced that it invariably leads to distortion. This is not the Christian gospel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rest in Peace -- John Mybeck

Last week I had the difficult task of presiding over the funeral of Dr. John Mybeck. It was an amazing service! Keven Mybeck did a beautiful job in eulogizing his dad, and Mark Mybeck and John Carpenter shared an original song; The Liberty Trail.

On the way to the cemetery in Crown Point, I was talking with Kevin Kish about how hard it is to preside at the service of a dear friend — who else would you want to do it? And he was right — I knew John — I loved John and I cannot think of anyone else who should have been leading the celebration of his life.

John was a special friend. He has been a mentor, friend, brother, father, patron to me these last 10+ years. He always was interested in my life and my families life — genuinely interested! He helped arrange an internship for Jessica at the Theatre at the Center.

At the beginning of December, it was pretty clear that the cancer was going to steal John’s life — so I began trying to talk with him about how he wanted to be remembered. He wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. I could force a few things out of him, but he really wasn’t ready. By Christmas, he began to get ready, but it was too late and we really could not discuss it. It broke my heart that we could not ever really talk about those things, but that is all to often the case.

Have you thought about your funeral.
How you want to be remembered?
Where you want to be buried or if you prefer cremation.
What scriptures you want read, songs you want played?
Someone in particular you want to speak (or someone you don’t want to speak)?

I will post what I want for my funeral in a few days, along with a form that you could use to record your own thoughts.

DO THIS, Your family will thank you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Pillars of the Earth

I recently finished reading Ken Follett's book, The Pillars of the Earth. This is a book that has been on my read list for years, but with the second volume completed by Follett in 2007, I decided now is the time.

It is a huge book --- 983 pages. But despite its size, I could not put it down. It made great reading following Christmas while Nancy and the girls were in North Carolina. There were many nights when I did not want to go to bed!

If you have read other works by Follett (Eye of the Needle, The Man From St Petersburg, On Wings of Eagles) you might be surprised by Pillars. It is not a "thriller" like many of his other works. Instead it is historical fiction, set in 12th Century England. It really is the story of the relationship between the Church (Roman Catholic) and the state. Ken Follett says the story is about building a church --- but I think that is just the location for all that takes place between the clerics and the royal officials.

The story revolves around a ambitious young man who rises to the role of Prior of Kingsbridge. Prior Phillip seems to really care about the people in his parish (unlike many of the other clerics in the story) and desires to make their life better and fuller. One way to do that is to re-build the church in Kingsbridge. He meets a man (Tom Builder) and his family --- who ultimately becomes the master builder for Phillip. The story covers almost 50 years, so much takes place.

What is fascinating (at least to me) is how the story leads up to the death of Thomas Beckett, which sets the stage for Magna Carta in another 35 years.

Follett weaves a marvelous tale and well worth the time it takes to read it. I am looking forward to reading World Without End, the sequel to Pillars sometime this year.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Environmental Series

A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Thomas Friedman’s newest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded. I don’t know if any of you have read it, but I think it would make for some very interesting and lively discussion.

One of the things that comes to mind to me, is the need to preach a sermon series on the environmental crisis that we are facing. As I looked at the schedule for this year, Lent seemed to be an excellent time to look at the direction that the world is currently going in, and offer a vision for what the world could be like (sounds like resurrection to me).

I would like your help. If you could share with me any ideas that you have about some of the themes you think should be examined during a series on the environment. If you could get me your ideas right away, I will develop some outlines and post them here so that we can continue to work on them.

Thanks for working with me on this critical issue.