Saturday, March 30, 2019

To the Spiritual Refugees Part 2

Since early November of 2018 I have been seeking out the lives of those whom I have come to lovingly call "spiritual refugees"; the young, middle aged, and seniors who have been alienated from the brick and mortar of 21st century church for a wide variety of reasons, too lengthy to list for the purposes of this blog. Maybe you're still in a church but not quite feeling "at home", or you've fled the standard evangelical format, or...or...or...

Originally I thought it would be easy for me to set up "one on one" meetings in the Twin Cities to LISTEN AND LOVE. Unfortunately, I underestimated the logistics of that goal due to my own new life schedule and the very busy lives of those with whom I am seeking to communicate.

So....If I've contacted you or you've contacted me about meeting with me on this basis, I am trying a new strategy in the hope of getting this off the ground. Saturday April 6, 2019 my wife and I would like to invite you to our home (2694 200th Ave Emerald, WI) at 6pm. I am not giving up on the possibility of meeting everyone "one on one", but at this juncture I simply need to adjust, review, and start fresh.

I continue to be blown away by the responses I've had...both the number and the spirit of all of you. I promise (as I have all along) that I will LISTEN and LOVE. No judgements, no pressure, no need to explain in depth why you've walked away from most wife Ginger and I simply want to offer our 45 years of pastoral ministry as a listening post. In fact, for lack of a better name for this meeting, I've decided to call it, TO LISTEN AND TO LOVE.

If you have more questions about this goal, I have outlined it on my website and on other blogs here at You can also call me at 715-265-7141 or email me at

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Replacing Awful with AWE

The brand spanking new baby church of the New Testament discovered and practiced AWE. The book of Acts chapter 2 verse 43 says, "...and everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles...". I've often tried to imagine what this might have looked like but, almost as often, I fall back into seeing it in the context of the 21st century church...through buildings, worship services, and the like. I'm certainly not opposed to our buildings and services creating "awe", but I just don't think this passage is referring to those things.

Almost every awe-struck act Jesus demonstrated in the Gospels was simply in the dust and dirt of the paths He walked. It seems to me that the apostles immediately sought to replicate this ordinary pattern in order to introduce the extraordinary.

When Jesus said, "The poor have the gospel preached to them.." it was in the surroundings of the harsh realities of, well...the poor! (Matthew 11:5). In the frustrating middle of disabilities, disease, death, and poverty Jesus introduced the AWE of His Kingdom. This is what the apostles pursued and I am convinced we too must be in full pursuit of the rainbow of AWE in the middle of our brown paper bag bland world.

We're living in a time of awful events and awful behavior by an awful lot of people! There's no time like the present to introduce AWE as a light in the dark tunnel of awful. Let's practice AWE, let's plan AWE, let's prepare AWE, and let's get busy with AWE.

Jennifer Stellar, PhD, an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto says, "People feeling awe focus more of their attention outward and value others more in social interactions." She defines awe as the emotion we feel in response to something vast that defies our existing frame of reference. She has also studied how AWE can affect our immune system in positive ways. Simply stated, I think it has to do with firing up our child-like wonder as we learn to expect and practice AWE instead of being awful.

Here's how we can practice AWE:
*Do kind things. Let me slow it down a bit....Do...Kind...Things! Seeing someone react to kindness, directly or indirectly is awe-inspiring. Be fully engaged in DOING KIND THINGS DAILY.
*Look away from our phones and into the eyes of everyone we see. Smile randomly at random strangers. SEE people with the aim of pure love and say "hi" to everyone...spooky, I know.
*When we are asked to pray for someone, do it right on the spot. Not with showy loud expression, but with authentic connection to that person.
*Expect spiritual activity in and around every bland activity and thing you are doing. Imagine how different life today would be if Moses had not seen a "burning bush" in the middle of his day job shepherding sheep. (BTW, he called it a "marvelous sight" Exodus 3:3)

Not long ago, I had a dream about someone in a completely random way. The next morning I contacted that person to tell him how beautiful it was to see him in my dreams. Their response was, "That's awesome!" It was simple and free! And the result built AWE into both of us.

Get up and go do some AWE right now!

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Love Alone is Credible

For as long as I can remember, when I scan the night sky I am at a complete and wonderful loss to comprehend what I’m seeing. I’ve read the science and attempted to grasp the genius of astrophysicists. And while I respect it all, it almost always fails to pull me upward, outward, forward, and into a substantive transcendence matching what I’m looking at in that night sky. 

The Hubble telescope images we are now able to casually enjoy show us furious explosions of blinding light and excruciating colors without defined shape or even the slightest explanation for their existence. And yet the Bible simply says, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1).

When I’m completely honest I have to admit that my faith is smaller than I’m comfortable with and inadequate to carry the love I know I carry for the God of this glory. Love is where it all lands… “love alone is credible” (Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar) and love alone sorts it out, finalizes my questions, and keeps me founded. There are no competitors for my heart. Love alone for God alone! 

From his book, “Love and War”, John Eldridge says, “Every thing that has ever stirred your heart~that is God romancing you.” Since we love Him because He first loved us (I John) I personally must conclude that God’s irresistible, passionate love seeks to ignite the same quality IN me FOR Him. While faith will always be standard spiritual equipment, love out distances the requirement for faith and, in fact, is the only fuel worthy of mention FOR my faith (I Corinthians 13:2-3). 

It’s the only container I have, the only grasp, and the only true desire that keeps me secure. I love this God. His starry skies hold my imagination and the rapturous, mind crushing expanse is more than I can resist. This glory leaves me with one solid purpose for my living ~I will love this God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. 

This God landed on earth and my love tells me, His name is Jesus Christ. That’s greater than faith and far far larger than rational thought. There are no faith formulas or dogmatic demands capable of holding my attention…Love has won my full attention. Jesus Himself made it clear that love was the ultimate evidence for our faith (John 13:34-35)! In fact, Jesus prayed that the love of Heaven (and if you will, the supernatural adhesive between the trinity) would penetrate and permeate we humans on earth (John 17:22-26).

So I have chosen not to be overwhelmed by the lifestyle choices others or my culture’s slide into confusion because I know this God’s glory is capable to love us all into recovery and sanity. How? I can no more explain “how” than I can explain how our Sun, a dwarf star, 93 million miles away from earth can hold 7 billion lives in complete and perfect balance while we spin through the universe at thousands of miles per hour with exact precision. My choice in response to all fallenness is to make my life more available for Love which, in turn, makes me a delivery port for Resurrection life for my world. 

The siren song of doctrinal purity demands my time and affections with constant noisy rhythms seeking my ego driven one dimensional quotes to end all quotes. But those night skies, those glories, those implausible expanses, and that crazy lover of all humans, Jesus just keeps my eyes straining for more than Hubble will ever disclose. 

7th Century bishop, St. Isaac the Syrian said, “In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to a wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of governance of creation be finally comprised.”

This God has kissed my soul so that I am flat out ruined on lessor, feeble attractions for my attention. 

I will always and forever love this God. And this God will love us all here on earth until His Kingdom comes and His will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.