R’s Fav Holidays… go figure…


So, my four year old son says to me tonight, “Do you want to guess my four favorite holidays?” 

“Of course. You have four?” 

“Yes. Four favorites.” 

“Can you have four favorites?” 

Silence. “Do you want to guess?” 

“Yes, Son, I do…” 

Here are my Son’s favorite holidays by order of importance: 

1. Halloween. 

2. Valantine’s Day (I got this one wrong) 

3. Easter (the hint was “this is when you look for Easter eggs” – I nailed it.) 

4. Field Trip Day. 

Here is a list of my understanding of why each holiday made the list: 

1. Candy

2. Candy

3. Candy 

4. Field Trip Day – does it really need an explanation? 

You’re welcome. 

…you know you’re in a two pastor home when…. Part 2 – needing two copies

Two Pastor Family

Its Friday, it dawns on me while still at my office that I have yet to choose the call to worship and haven’t given any thought to the pastoral prayer. No worries, I think, I’ll just grab my handy-dandy copy of Chalice Worship and… Wait….

Its not here.

(Furiously search office. Sit in chair. Spin.  Wonder where it could possibly be. Mindlessly surf Facebook. Oh, well that’s interesting, yes how did they know I’d be interested in a real light saber?? I mean, a real light saber?? Think about what I could… Shoot. What am I doing? I needed to find something for something I needed to… What was it? Oh, hey, look at that! Is that a real…. Worship! That it!)

Still no book.

(Light comes on) Sara needed it for her class. Right. Its at home.

Of course, I am, like I imagine all other pastors to be, a creature of habit. Therefore, I expect my procrastination to be completely covered by remembering to do stuff at the last minute. But when my books don’t reside exactly where they are supposed to, my procrastination turns into a blissful Saturday of ignorance followed by a mad dash on Sunday morning.

Then, I just pick out a pleasant sounding psalm for the call to worship during the prelude.

Cause that’s life in a two pastor home. Gotta get two copies of everything…

…you know you’re a two pastor family when…

Two Pastor Family

…your wife is serving as the liturgist and midway through the hymn you realize that your two year old is melting down in front of the church and suddenly, the pastor morphs into a mom and you take over the liturgy….

So, there we were. It’s the government shutdown and that means that our organist, who is a government contractor (I know right? go figure) is emphatically NOT working. I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t going to be there but sure enough, on Sunday morning, we get to Memorial Chapel and it’s going to be me and my guitar rocking the old Lutheran Liturgy.


I had prepared for that. 

About an hour earlier. 

Using a hymnal whose idea of a modern song is Amazing Grace. 

Ever tried to play old German hymns on the guitar? Not cool. 

My dad is about the only person I know who has even tried. Respect. 

But, we dove in. The congregation was totally cool, rolling with the reality that it was going to be a very different service. By the way, not having a big deal since we sing the liturgy. Yup. Every “Lord, have mercy” is sung. Needless to say, suddenly, we were reading it. 

Since a change like this threw their Dad into chaos, my children were not their usual awesomely behaved selves. 

Sara usually functions as the liturgist for our congregation. Normally not a big deal but Lenora, our two year old, was having none. of. it. 

So, there were were, conducting the service and very graciously (and smoothly I might add) transitioned from pastors leading the service to parents concerned with behavior. Sara whisked Lenora to the back and I took over. 

No one even noticed. 

Ok, that’s not true. It was pretty obvious. 

So, one more thing we have to work out. 

Always the parent…

WWI and Hell


One my favorite take always from my Clinical Pastoral Education experience is the recognition that the Pastor/minister/spiritual person is expected to be, as Christ, a “person of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” I often use this line now as a recognition of one the functions of a chaplain – we are familiar with the journeys of suffering (or at least ought to be) and can help those that are traveling it as the wilderness guide helps those wandering through the unknowns of grief.

I am often asked about the afterlife. Of course, I only know what everyone knows – it’s a fog – no one really knows, they can just interpret the vague references in the Bible and other sacred literature.

I’ve started reading NT Wright’s Surprised By Hope which looks into the Christian orthodox view and seeks to help others understand.

He makes this observation:

“…the First World War produced not only a great deal of sudden death but also much reflection on its meaning. Some historians have suggested that belief in hell, already under attack from theologians in the nineteenth century, was one the the major casualties of the Great War. There had been so much hell on earth that people couldn’t believe that God would create such a place hereafter as well.”


What a great example of life impacting theology. As they struggled to make sense of the idea that God would further punish someone who suffered so greatly in life impacted how they then thought about the afterlife.

I wonder if levels of suffering impact a person’s conclusions about things like “eternal conscience suffering.”

It also has me wondering about how Liberation Theology had concepts of Heaven rendered as liberation from the oppressor whereas the general American paradigm sees Heaven as a place to get the opulence denied in life. Streets of gold, mansions on a hillside…

Kids in Worship.

We’ve got three kids. 5 (going on 12), 4, and just turned 2. It can be tough sometimes finding a church where we fit in. I have a value of my children attending a regular service. There is nothing wrong with kids church, I’m a fan – I just also value our children experiencing the significance of the adult service.
It can be challenging bringing kids to church. I too have not been above appealing to the paint function on an ipad (or that really awkward moment when the theme to “superwhy” that plays whenever the app opens rings out loudly in the middle of the sermon). It’s especially bad in my little church where the historic building has one bathroom that can only be accessed via a door off the main stage. Yeah. That’s right, you have to take your child down the middle aisle, right in front of the pulpit, where I am “breaking sacred bread” in order to let potty-training kiddo use the bathroom. If you listen closely, you can even hear the ancient toilet flush.
Even with all that, I still believe it’s important to bring your kids into the service. I’m a preacher and it does not bother me or phase me, or interrupt my train of though to have kids talking and coloring though the service. I do a kids message before my adult sermon that ties into concepts with the message and (when I remember) I also include a coloring page. None of these will keep a kids still for 20 minutes so if someone cries, they cry. No. Big. Deal.
All that said, I read this article today and thought it had some great ideas for making that transition from kids church to adult church.
Let your child get comfortable in the worship space.

1. Attend a child-friendly church.

A church that invites children to attend worship, that has a children’s time during worship or a service in which children are included, will not mind the noise and commotion that comes with having young children in worship.

2. Bring your child to church on a day other than Sunday morning.

Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, Christian education director, or church school teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility, and locate the Sunday school rooms and bathrooms as well as the sanctuary. Let your child explore the sanctuary, see how it feels to sit in the pew, and leaf through the Bibles and hymnbooks. Look behind the pulpit, Communion table, and baptismal font, and explain the use of these.

3. Take home a worship bulletin and go through the service at home.

Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand (and in some places, to kneel), to sing, to pray, and to listen. If the Lord’s Prayer is used, write down the words and let your child practice at home. Prepare offering envelopes and let your child put money in the envelope, and explain why the offering is important.

4. Play “Let’s go to church” at home.

Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens in worship.

5. Read the Bible and pray at home.

Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. If you let prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, your child will understand its importance.

6. Sit near an aisle, near an exit.

If your child needs to go to the bathroom, or is feeling overly stimulated or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Walk your child out of the sanctuary until she can work off a little energy, and then come back in. This is much easier if you don’t have to crawl across a row of other people in the pew!

7.  Be prepared with a worship notebook or bag.

Many churches provide materials for children to use during worship, but if not, bring your own supplies. Colored pencils can be used to mark the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and use a bookmark to mark the hymns that will be sung that day. Have some coloring pages from a Bible coloring book for your child to color, or some blank pages for doodling. This is not disrespectful, and can help your child listen more attentively. Have the words of the Lord’s Prayer printed on a page for the child to follow, if he or she is of reading age. Let your child draw a picture of the anthem or hymns being sung, or the sermon, and give this to the choir director or pastor afterwards.

8. Teach basic church etiquette.

Speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others. If your child is shy, don’t force it, but practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Let the child put the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take your bulletin with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel that “This is my church!”

9. Get to know the pastor.

Pastors of child-friendly churches love to get to know the children of the church. Introduce your child to the pastor after worship, and participate in other church activities so that the pastor becomes a friend and not a scary adult.

10. Don’t give up!

It may take awhile for your child to become comfortable in worship, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. There may be days when it doesn’t go well, but don’t let this stop you from coming the following week. Practice makes perfect!
Inspired by Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! by Kathleen Bostrom, illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh (CandyCane Press, an imprint of Ideals Publications).

Thanks to Ministry Matters

Tom Clancy on Hard Work

thought of the day

Yesterday, the American novelist (particularly of the Cold War) Tom Clancy died. Clancy was famous for writing, among other works, Hunt for the Red October and Clear and Present Danger. I remember reading Patriot Games in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version while going back and forth to the Bill Gothard seminar in Grand Rapids with Dennis Katopol. Clancy was a good antidote to the seminar. I read some great quotes yesterday – the best one being about hard work:

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

 “You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired—it’s hard work.”

I dare say everything is hard work. True, there are talents that can make it a little easier, but at the end of the day, anything worth doing is going to come out of real, nose to the grindstone, hard work.

Proverbs tells us (14:23) that in all work there is great profit but mere talk tends only to poverty. Here are a couple more classics from the Bible about hard work: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, Col. 3:23; For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 2 Thes 3:10-12; Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Phil 2:14-15; and my personal favorite: And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thes 4:11-12.


I’m a prison chaplain. I talk about sex addiction with addicts on a regular basis.


…You should know that before reading this post. In it, I am going to acknowledge the existence of sex and… other words…

So… I read this today on Huffington Post. It’s about a reddit group “NoFap” (Fapping is masturbating), a collection of (and I just saw this – it’s significant) no less than 74,000 “fapstronauts.” These are *mostly* men, 89% of whom are under the age of 30 who have taken a pledge not to “fap” for a variety of reasons not the least of which is to improve their sex life. Read the article, there are alot of amazing stats. 

Item I find MOST fascinating? Zero talk of religion. 

This is not a religious movement. It’s a personal health one. 

When I was in Bible College (I now own that I am a graduate of Pensacola Christian College – they kicked me out 3 weeks before my graduation, then gave me my degree a year later – though for years I said something like, “I went to a small private college in Florida when asked…) there were thousands of sexually repressed young men who “fapped” all the time. It was referred to by those who dared acknowledge it’s existence (though never by it’s actual name – I have a memory I’d love to erase of Gregg Mutch the college president preaching a sermon to “just the guys” about, and I am not kidding here, true story, “stroking the snake of pornea”). Those progressive enough to own that sometimes 19 year old men who are not allowed to get within 6 inches of a girl (broke that one a few hundred not sure how many times..) sometimes might give into the lustful thoughts constantly on their mind and “fap” also used the most powerful tool in the fundamentalist arsenal to fight it – guilt. 

Nothing like some good, old-fashioned, unadulterated guilt to make someone go forward and confess to someone else that you had “thoughts” and sometimes even “lustful thoughts.” It was unhealthy and made sex dirty. 

We were told it was bad, bad, bad and then, once married, its on like Donkey Kong. Cause that’s not weird and backward. 

Understand. I have, as a chaplain, experienced the dark side of porn addiction. It is very painful and what it does to families is a plague. 

What is amazing about this article is that this group approaches the idea of purity for their own health. It is people who come to some kind of awareness that their tastes and pleasures are not healthy and they want purity. And they seem to be doing it without guilt! 

More power to you. 

This article was encouraging to me. Whether we approach a healthy view of sex from a religious worldview or not, less porn use is better for the human race. 

Update: here’s the website: http://www.nofap.in

Also: your brain on porn – quite good