This Christmas and the Weather-1st Sunday of Advent

There is a joke in Minnesota (and I’m sure other places too) about the weather: If you want to know what the weather is like, look out the window every ten minutes because it could change that fast.

It never seems predicable, and it’s never like last year. :)

There are a number of things in life like that. Relationships are not always the same, sporting events are not predictable all the time, the economy changes, and so on.

For some this can be hard because we like to know the future or at least be able to plan ahead.

Maybe it’s control. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it helps us feel like we can trust something more when we know how it’s going to turn out.

Over the next four Sundays of Advent, I want to put before us the goal of focusing on this Christmas.

This Christmas is about saying to the Lord,

“What do You want me to know about You this Christmas? How can I be different by the end of the Advent season?”

I believe if we go into the Christmas season expecting it to be like last year or what not, we will either be disappointed or distracted and not see what God has for us.

Don’t misunderstand me, God’s promises DO NOT CHANGE. :) Those are very predicable, trustworthy, and God is in control.

The true experience of Advent is when we come to the manger and say “O Come Emmanuel and do what You want with me.”

How do we put handles on that? It’s like this picture on the side of the Blessing Cup we bring to our Taste Worship events.

The Blessing Cup

When you look at the two lower case letter i’s, can you see the cross?

Yes? Now it’s really what you’re going to see. When you look for it you will find it.

This Christmas, you will find the joy, hope, love, and peace that comes from the One who has come this Christmas.

You just gotta look for it!

Be willing to let it look different than last year.

So here is an Advent question for you and your family to ask each other at a meal together:

“What would you like God to do in your heart and life this Advent season?”

Everyone answers and everyone listens. :)

I’d love to hear some of the answers in the comments section below.

Blessings, my friends,

Peder

The Star Still Shines

I love what I get to do. Not only do I get to help people love Jesus, I get to see His love in His children.

On Christmas Tour I got to spend time with a family of three brothers and a sister after one of the concerts.

The sister cherishes the time she gets to spend with her friends and has a great passion to help others. The brothers love to talk sports which, of course, I don’t mind at all.

Even though we cheer for different teams, we found common ground in our favorite players. It was fun to hear them share their wealth of knowledge of both basketball and football. I was even more impressed with how these three brothers took turns sharing their thoughts and stories, never trying correct each other or outdo each others comments.

For almost an hour, the four of us sat around the table sharing why we liked or didn’t appreciate certain players and teams. While the boys didn’t always agree, they respectfully listened to one another and each one got a fair chance to share his opinion.

photo credit

photo credit: CliffMuller via photopin cc

Throughout Advent we’ve been talking about light. Both literal light like on my farm and while I’m running and also figurative light like the light of traditions.

Those boys shine a different kind of light. They shine the light of Christ.

When the baby Jesus was born, the star over the manger could be seen all around. It’s how the magi found the Christ child. They saw the star, were drawn to it, and followed it until they found Jesus.

Light still points people to Jesus. Except now it shines in us.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

If we’re walking in Him, then His light shines in each one of us in the way we live our lives, the choices we make, and the words we use.

It shines in the way we treat each other. From the convenience store clerk to the people living in our house.

His light is His presence.  If you are a follower of Christ, carrying His light is bringing His presence.

Chances are this Christmas you’re going to spend some time with your family. Maybe your family gets along great. Maybe you’re like my family and sometimes there’s some tension.

Sometimes shining the light of Christ isn’t the easy option. But it’s the right choice. The good choice. It’s what family does.

No matter which sports team you’re rooting for, root for one another.

Merry Christmas, my friends,

Peder

Traditions are Like Light

It’s been great to see so many of you on Christmas Tour this December. Those of you who’ve made it out so far have seen this little tree sitting on the piano. It’s become a tradition and is part of every Christmas concert we do.

Here’s a little pre-concert vlog about the light that traditions bring:


(watch the video on YouTube)

Traditions are like light. They help us when we get lost.

They’re worship and they’re worth repeating year after year.

What new tradition are you going to start this Christmas?

(If you want to sponsor a child, here’s the link to Compassion).

Running in the dark

Finding time to run is getting harder and harder these days. We’re trying to juggle so many schedules in my house, it gets dark earlier, and, of course, it’s colder this time of year. Running’s just not easy to fit in.

I try to take what I can get, so even if the sun’s going down, I head out to see if I can get some miles in. It’s inevitable that I’m gonna finish my workout in the dark.

Luckily, my running route has a decent path. It’s not narrow and not real rough. However, it’s also not well-lit and there are a number of moments when I can’t see the path.

It’s hard to run when you can’t see the path. It feels more stressful because you can’t see where your feet land, and it makes you run a different rhythm. You strain your eyes trying to not step on a crack or some uneven ground that would send your ankles into pile of dust. When you don’t know where to step, it adds tension and changes the way you run. It’s more work and less fun.

In the Psalms, there is the scripture I’m sure your familiar with that says “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.” God has made a path for us that leads us into daily living, not just surviving. Scripture is about giving us the light to see where to go so as to not fall into the ditches of this world by taking our eyes off God’s plan for us. When you have light on your path, it’s less stressful, more rhythmic, more fun. It lessens the stress of rolling your spiritual ankles on edge of the path when you lose sight of the middle.

God even used a star as a sign that Jesus had come to the earth.

We need light to live.

We need Jesus, the Light of the World, to know real life.

This world was really spiritually dark and God sent his Son to be light to show us Himself, save us from ourselves, and give abundant living.

This second week of Advent, give thanks for The Light that has come to the world in Jesus, the Savior born to you this day.

Without Jesus we would be truly in the dark.

God is good all the time.

Peder

The Yard Light

I love light!

I mean, if we had no light, we couldn’t see things.

We couldn’t see each other. We couldn’t see where we are going and would step on really sharp toys that weren’t put away! We would not know how to stay on the highway at night. We would struggle to get a tan. We would be colder. We wouldn’t wear matching clothes.

To walk around in the dark all the time? Awful.

We would miss so much beauty. There is actually a form of depression some people suffer from when they are living long periods of life without sunlight. The list is infinite about how hard life would be without light.

You get the picture. Light is pretty important.

As we enter into this Advent season before Christmas 2013, I want to spend time looking at the message, power of, need, and reason for light. Specifically the Light of World that comes to us in Jesus Christ.

I remember on the farm we had a single yard light that was right in the center of our homestead. It was probably a 75 watt light bulb at the top of a telephone pole that was turned on and off in the house. It was there for the purpose of helping you see where you were going from building to building at night.

Walking from the steel shed or the barn or chicken coop on a dark Minnesota night back to the house could be nerve-racking for a seven-year-old who thought Scooby Doo haunted mysteries could be real.

The yard light, though, was a lifesaver. If I needed to flee from any monsters lurking in the near by woods I could run freely with worrying about tripping over a bike, running into clothes line, or falling in a trap set by enemy trying to take over the world starting at my farm!

(Yes, I had an imagination…go figure).

As long as that yard light was on, no worries.

But I’d lose confidence when I was closing up the barn door for the night and my older brother (let’s call him Tom) was watching out the window to turn off the yard light. He’d force me to walk in the night without a light.

It changed how I walked, hoping I wouldn’t bang my shin on something. The wind, the creaking of branches, gates swinging, and squirrels running were all way more evil than ever before.

My breathing would speed up, my senses on alert, and I’d move towards the house in total fear but with one single goal: don’t die before giving paybacks to the brother we’re calling Tom.

We need light. Not just physically but spiritually. God the Father knew it. It was why He sent His Son to a darkening world. We are meant to live this life in the light not in the dark.

Do you feel any of those emotions in your day-to-day life I was feeling when my brother turned off the yard light? If anything at all, then that’s why this Advent is important for you.

Wouldn’t it be great if this Christmas you discovered the light of Jesus in a new way so you don’t ever have to fear the dark?

The best part about the light of Jesus? There is no one who can ever turn it off with a switch. It is always on.

Let’s get ready to run in the light this Christmas, my friends, because darkness cannot overcome the Light!

God is good all the time!

Peder

Devo for the 3rd Sunday of Advent: Joy

While on Christmas tour, my son Ethan, 11, called me with some fun news to share. He had spent all day Saturday, from 8am to 5pm, taking a class required by the state of Minnesota to drive a snowmobile! It was a long day of rules, information, and training. Then on Sunday at 1pm, the day he called me, he took his driving test to attain his snowmobile license. The news was good news indeed.

He passed and was now legal to trek across the globe on a snowmobile (kinda).

What caught my heart was as I was talking to him, he seemed like he was trying holding something inside. It was actually when I said to him, “Dude, you should be proud of yourself.” He said back to me, “I am, Dad. It’s just hard to talk because I can’t stop smiling.”

Ethan's face of Joy

Ethan’s face of joy

That’s fun!!!

Webster’s dictionary says the word “joy” is a noun defined as: The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect possessing what one desires.

Ethan was experiencing some real joy!

So how does that happen during Advent? We sing “Joy to the World” and “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” yet for many joy is way down the to-do list. All the stuff going on drains the tank. For some of us it is a really hard season for any number of reasons like a loss in the past, to fears of loneliness, hardships in the present time, and so on. I get that…

Ok, so if you’re not feeling the well-being, success, or good fortune, how do you find the joy that’s makes it hard to not smile?

First, look into the manger and see the very face of the One who is the giver of real joy and peace and realize you bring Him joy. Remember a verse like Zephaniah 3:17:

“The LORD your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with his love; He will rejoice over you with singing.”

That perfect God with no reason to fulfill a duty or obligation and has no needs, looks at you and me and takes delight in us. It’s like that we are His favorites…because we are.

Now, take that truth of how your Heavenly Father looks at you and live in it. When you know that the most powerful God of all is proud of you and adores you, no matter what you’ve done or how messy it is, what does that do inside of your heart?

Doesn’t it make it hard not to smile? Isn’t that the prospect of possessing what one desires? That desire being love.

Ok, so here is your assignment: As soon as you are done reading this, pick a Christmas song that brings you joy. Whatever song it is, TURN IT UP! And then…are you ready?

DANCE! Dance a weird dance; dance with someone in your house. Dance with your eyes closed like no one can see you. Just dance, friend.

You are allowed to dance and enjoy it. It will be really hard not to smile.

It’s a good taste of joy.

God is good all the time.

Peder

It’s Love. The Second Sunday of Advent

I am currently sitting on a plane after a concert on my Love Has Come Christmas Tour.  A bit tired, squished in my seat, and cold because apparently we need to make the airplane feel like a Minnesota winter to keep the holiday mood real. Oh, a blanket would be nice right now…

So with Delta-frostbite I’m trying to type out this devo for Second Sunday of Advent. The second candle on our traditional wreath represents love, a word we recognize as the heartbeat of God the Father. It’s actually who He is. There is so much we can write. The power of love, the abuse of the meaning of the word, and so much in between. So for our devo, I want you focus on what it feels like to be in the presence of the genuine, godly and what I would call advent love.

photo credit: oddharmonic via photopin cc

Let me introduce you to Lonna Grabenstien. Lonna is a woman who ministers at American Lutheran in Gothenburg, Nebraska. She is a wife of many years, a mom of three awesome children, and now a grandma to three grandchildren. I’ve known Lonna for most of the years of my music ministry. We just performed our Christmas concert at her church and loved is what comes to my mind.

From the first step out of our vehicle on our arrival to the closing of the door of the truck at our departure I witness from afar the act of loving people like Jesus talks about.

As soon as we arrive and Lonna appears in the picture, there are kids begging for her attention, and everyone gets not just a courtesy but full attention to whatever question they have or even just telling her a story even if it has no relevance to what’s going on.

She listens with more than patience. She listens with joy. It is amazing to see. It’s constant. It has a touch of chaos. Every student is affirmed and even blessed with touch and words that have a feeling of destiny. You would think Lonna would get worn down to a level of just being tolerant but there is no way that’s happening. Every child feels like her favorite. I think they are.

Thanks, Stephanie!

It’s love.

Then there are the older ones. The junior high, senior high, and adults. It’s the same thing. In every introduction of anyone who comes our way, she speaks words of beauty about each person like I’m meeting a dignitary or someone who is about to cure an awful disease. It’s not a sale; it’s not a pitch. It’s real passion and understanding for each person who walks up to us.

It’s love.

When the concert was over, my dear friend Lonna was at it again so pouring thank yous and blessings onto everyone who came for the evening event. And then my heart was touched by how during our loading out of our production gear, she would encourage me with more stories and words of how she could see God moving throughout the whole concert and that there were so many people who needed to hear what was said.

It’s love.

You probably know someone like Lonna in your life. They are out there, and we love to be around them. It’s truly attractive and inviting and fun to be around those who love with more than just niceness but with true passion for who you are.

We just worshiped on the second Sunday of Advent. It’s about love. We remember that God has sent His Son Jesus at Christmas not out of duty, obligation, or need but because of something else.

It’s love.

My question to you is this: Do you realize you could be a Lonna to someone else today? Right now? Like even as you are reading this, there is someone in your life who needs what you have and you can give it to them.

It’s love.

This is a straight-forward challenge, directive, commissioning to you this week–well, the next four days–go give something real, unconditional, powerful, through your words, actions, giving, time, effort to someone very specific in your world and do it because you can.

You have all training, skill, and resource necessary to succeed. You can not fail. Why? Because…

It’s love.

God is good all the time

Peder

Hope! The First Sunday of Advent 2012

Hey my friends,

It’s that time of year again, time for my traditional Advent devotions. I have received many posts and emails wondering if I am doing them again and the answer is YES. I am honored to know these devotions are helpful and even useful to you and your family.

This year I am about the Advent candles. The candles are symbols of what we want to focus on each Sunday during Advent. I like candles. Candles have a great ability to change the mood of any room and atmosphere.

The candle for the first Sunday of Advent – Hope!

photo credit: mtsofan via photopin cc

How many times do we say the word hope in any given day? Phrases like “we’re hoping it works out, I have hope, and I put my hope in this or that”? We even have seen it in slogans like “Hope and Change” or “The Year of Hope.” Sometimes it’s just the line that says “I hope so.”

I wonder if hope becomes more like wishing.

I’m going to wish upon a star. I hope I win the lottery. I hope I pass this math test; I hope he asks me on a date; I hope she will say yes.

Does wishing take away the power of hope?

Webster defines hope this way:
1. to desire with expectation of obtainment.
2: to expect with confidence. 

 The archaic definition is to trust or put confidence in.

This sounds less like a wish and more like an expectation in something that is founded; perhaps an assurance in something that is proven or shown itself to be evident.

If we look at it like this, doesn’t it change where we put our hope?

The first candle for the Advent season is purple.

As you know, I am a devoted Minnesota Viking fan. Vikings are known for the color purple.  As a fan I hope one day they will win a Super Bowl. It’s what makes being a fan fun. But that’s not a life of hope; it’s a life of wishing. Remember, hope is assurance of something that has shown itself to be evident… perhaps not the Vikings. Ahhh, it’s just a fan thing, I think.

Throughout the Old Testament, the people of Israel heard about a King who would be the King of kings and Lord of lords! He would be the Messiah who would set all captives free. In Isaiah 11:10 it says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.” For hundreds of years they put their hope in God’s promise that He would send this Prince of Peace for their freedom! They hoped He would come.

It wasn’t wishing. It wasn’t guessing. It wasn’t a lottery.

It was real hope.

It wasn’t the hope of the Israelites that made it happen. It was Whom they put their hope in that made the difference.

God has given us a promise of what we can obtain, of what we can expect with confidence, of what the Israelites could expect with confidence. God Himself has proven that He comes through with His promises.

God did come through like He always does.

This is a great place to start this Advent season.

What or who do you put your hope in?

I mean your life hope. Hope for your children, maybe how they will grow up. Hope for how you will live each day at school, maybe hope for who holds your future and dreams?

I can only answer these questions with Scripture…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

This first week of Advent, take the time to look at what or whom you are putting your hope in.

Let me know your thoughts.

God is good all the time!

Peder

The Voice of Family

I love to coach my kids in the sports they play. I have been blessed coach all my children at different stages and in different sports. It’s a treat for me and fills my cup. I love the atmosphere of practice and, of course, game days. Win or lose (though winning is more fun) the amount of life lessons on a game field or court with a group of people called a team are endless.

Allison drives to the hoop

One thing I have realized is the importance of the sound of my voice. Whether I’m a coach or in the stands when my kids hear my voice, they respond. They play harder, look for me, find new energy, pick up their tempo. The words I shout to them are all affirmation, at least that’s what I try to do. Things like “Keep going, move your feet, go hard!” It blesses me when they respond to the voice of their dad.

Did you know how powerful your words are to anyone around you? The thing is that you and I, because of Jesus, carry the Kingdom. When we express words of affirmation and blessing to anyone, we do more than just say something nice. We actually bring a spiritual blessing that is beyond our understanding because of God’s Kingdom in us. It’s a beautiful way to love someone whether they are easy or hard to love.

Here is an idea from our Taste Worship events for you on this fourth Sunday of Advent. Take a sheet of paper and write across the top “I Love (name of someone here) because…” and then write 20-25 reasons why you love that person. Write it for Mom, Dad, a friend, brother, sister, Grandma, etc. Then give it to them in person or via a letter and let God use your words to do what He wants.

It’s what family does. The voice of a family member is important.

Peace,

Peder

Joy Means Joy!

Have you ever been overtaken with joy? I mean the kind of joy that makes you just act silly, excited, giddy? It’s like something that if you tried to hold it inside because you were afraid you would look goofy, you would still look weird because you can’t hide it.

I love the word joy. I love to feel joy.

Joy is baseball with your son in the summer.

Joy is any of your children being born or holding them in your arms for first time.

Joy is your best friend on the planet saying “yes” when you ask her to marry you.

Joy is hearing your parents say they love each other (even though some days it seems weird :) ).

Joy is what the shepherds and angels felt when Jesus was born! What did they do? They let it show on the outside. Why? Because they couldn’t help it!

“And the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:1

Hey, my friends, this week when joy overtakes you, dance with no rules, sing loudly, shout a loud amen. Don’t hold back!

Why? Because it’s joy!

Grace and peace,

Peder