Advent #1: Remembering

A couple of weeks ago I got to lead worship at my home church, the one I grew up in. Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Ulen, MN shaped me in a lot of ways.

It was amazing walking back into the sanctuary and thinking about all of the memories.

Let me tell you a little more:


(Technical difficulties? Here’s the link to the video on YouTube)

I felt all sorts of emotions during my visit to Bethlehem Lutheran. What do you think Mary and Joseph felt during their trip to Bethlehem?

What about you? What are some things in your life that draw out memories?

God uses the things that shaped us to make us who He wants us to be.

What are some things that have shaped you?

Share the traditions, places, and stories with your family. Let me know how it goes with a comment.

See you next week!

Peder

Preparing Like the Lynx

Wow, it’s been too long! I hope this blog finds you well! It’s been quite a summer with lots to talk about as well as awesome things to come.

I have a tradition to go with Allison to a Minnesota Lynx game. The Lynx are the WNBA team here in Minnesota. We are big basketball fans, and it’s Allison favorite sport. The Lynx are one of the top teams in the WNBA and have two championship banners. (More than my favorite NFL team ;))

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This year we were blessed by some friends who are season ticket holders to get in early and sit on the court itself during the shoot around. It was right up close.

To watch some of the best female basketball players in the world go through their pregame drills and shooting was really fun. To be up so close and feel the speed, focus, and intensity that these girls warm up with before even playing gave a new appreciation to how serious they are about their jobs.

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They were always verbal and affirming, which is a favorite part for me about girls sports. Always calling out “nice shot,” “you got this,” “push yourself,” and so on. Always positive. Even the coaches bringing their energy up always talking, communicating with the players.

They do this before every game! Every game. Add on to that the practices and the workouts.

Can we learn from this when it comes to how we prepare for worship, mission trips, coffee with friends, small group time, youth nights, and quiet times?

It might sound silly but sometimes we just jump in to our faith events with out any prep of prayer or study. Sometimes we jump in not even expecting God to show up.

Can we be a source of encouragement to those who are coming in the door? They’ve traveled to the event. Can we tell them how glad we are that they came? Or maybe we can look forward to what God has for them.

Can we make a prayer list before we get to our prayer time or quiet time so as not to get scattered and feel like we are not sure what our time was about?

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The Lynx won big that night. They won as team.

Preparation matters.

What would your experience if you look for some prep before your next time of worship?

Just an idea… but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

God is good all the time!
Peder

Celebrating Compassion Sunday and Releasing Children from Poverty

It’s Compassion Sunday which means churches all across the world are celebrating how children are being rescued in Jesus’ name.

Look at how St. John’s Lutheran in Buffalo, MN, has decorated their church.


(Technology not playing nice? Watch it on YouTube)

Photos of Compassion children, their sponsoring families, and letters sent back and forth makes the whole thing seem more personal.

It’s not a child on the other side of the world and a family here.

It’s a family spread across the world.

They belong together.

This Compassion Sunday, let’s stop poverty for children one child at a time.

When you put it all in a frame, it does’t seem so foreign.

Sponsor a child.

For the first time or maybe add another little boy or little girl to your family.

If you sponsor a child through that link, let me know and I’ll send you a free CD as a thank you gift.

Blessings friend,

Peder

Snowmobiles and Signs

Living in Minnesota means snow. This year’s snow and temperatures are bad enough to make a polar bear look for a coat. I’m not really complaining, just enlightening.

A fun part of the winter though is riding snowmobiles. I grew up on it. I haven’t gotten to do much of it over the years. This year I found a snowmobile on Craig’s List and added it to our family. It’s an older, used one but it can get going, and it’s Ethan’s main thing!

Our neighbor saw our new snowmobile and invited me on a late-night ride through trail in our community. I put my gear on and with a couple of other guys, off we went.

It was snowing again (go figure). Watching the snow fall down in the beam of my headlight was fun. Since the trail was new to me, every turn was a new picture.

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photo credit: mercedesbbk via photopin cc

When you ride trails, you stay as group in case someone’s snowmobile breaks down, someone falls off (it happens), someone gets lost, etc. At night you keep an eye out for the taillight of the person in front of you and the headlight of the person behind you. If you can’t see the sled behind you, you stop until they come into view. If they don’t, you turn around to find them.

It’s like not leaving family behind.

The other part of riding at night is trusting the leader and the signs that mark the trail. It’s the leader who makes the turns that everyone else follows. If he is unsure, he stops so we all catch up and make a group decision. The bottom line is it all comes down to looking for the signs and trusting the signs.

On our ride home, we decided to take a different route than when we left. The snow was falling harder but we felt good about where we were going. We were looking hard for some specific signs to know where to turn. Understand these signs are small, orange signs with black arrows. They can be every 100 yards to every ½ mile apart. Somewhere we got turned around and felt we were going the wrong direction. We stopped a couple times to agree on where to go next.

Being off-course was a bit unsettling because we were afraid of being lost and running out of gas. Out on trail are gas stations unavailable.

We decided to follow the signs running along side a highway until we realized where we were: the complete opposite direction of where we wanted to go. Eventually we made it home and had a blast doing it.

Here is the part you need to hear: We were never really lost!

Sure we had gone the wrong direction but we were always following the correct signs. We only looked for snowmobile trail signs and not other kinds of signs because the signs we needed where snowmobile trail signs.

Listen my friends, so often we get worried about making the right decisions and looking for the perfect direction from God. I’m glad you want to do that as we all need to seek His face and His Will!

In God’s amazing grace and sovereignty, as we make choices in our lives, as long as our passion is for Jesus, He will keep us on track and bring us to where He wants us. He is that good.

They key is look for His signs, His word, His voice. And don’t take that lightly. God really has plans for you (Jer. 29:11-13) and they are good plans (Phil. 1:6)

Sometimes a different trail is just part of the adventure God uses to teach us about Him.

It was fun to figure out how to get back. The peace we had is always having the right sign in our sight even if it was a little different journey.

Are you watching the right signs today? Remember He is before you, behind you, beside you, in you, through you, and for you!

Watch the signs.

God is good all the time

Peder

The Runner vs The Skateboarder

I like running. I’m more inconsistent than I want to be but it’s a time when I can think without being interrupted. I ran track in high school, but it’s my wife, Sherri, who is my inspiration and encouragement to run, and she reminds me how great I feel after a run. Tired? Yep. Energized? Definitely.

I was out running on a beautiful Minnesota fall day when this kid with his flat-brimmed hat on backwards looking at his iPhone just cruised by me on his skateboard!

I was on the sidewalk and he came right into my peripheral vision on the street and eased by.

I actually felt myself pick up the pace (which feels slow now) to try and keep up with the guy, hoping to pass him.

He didn’t even notice me. He didn’t care. He just went on his way enjoying his wheels and music.

Lots of thoughts entered at that moment:

  • I’m so slow! What happened to my speed from days gone by?
  • That kid is so not getting a workout. The skateboard is doing all the work.
  • I’m gonna beat this flat brimmed, untied shoes, no care in the world boarder
  • I hate falling behind anyone. I hate losing!
  • I’m glad I don’t own a skateboard. I’m working hard. I’m better off than he is.
  • It’s not fair that I have to run and he doesn’t.
  • I’m embarrassed to be so slow; I hope he doesn’t remember me.
  • I’ll never get faster.

They go on and on.

I know, it’s not very Christian like.

But I’m being honest about what I was thinking because it made me think about how as followers of Jesus we compare our “faithfulness” and “strength” to people around us.

It’s not helpful to do this! 

What if I change a few words in my thoughts. Do you ever have thoughts like these?

  • I’m so doubting! What happened to my confidence from days gone by?
  • That person is so not trying. God is doing all the work.
  • I’ll go to to show everyone how I worship.
  • I hate falling in front of anyone. I hate screwing up!
  • I’m glad I not a lazy church-goer. I’m working hard. I’m better off than them.
  • It’s not fair that I have to struggle and he doesn’t.
  • I’m embarrassed to have questions. I hope he doesn’t notice my fears.
  • I’ll never get it right. I’ll never win.

I run because I get to run. I try to get in better shape. I may try a race. I really just want to get stronger, feel better, and take care of what I’ve been given.

Isn’t that a part of our faith and connecting with God and His presence?

We have each been given a certain measure of faith in accordance to what God decides (Romans 12:3). It’s not about comparing ourselves to each other. That takes our eyes of the prize (Philippians 3:12-14).

Our running is about OUR run!

God has laid it out and is excited to show Himself to you in new ways. Don’t feel defeated by the skateboard! In fact ask God to bless those who seem to speed on by that they would know the presence of the Father like never before!

This Thanksgiving, give thanks that you get to run, walk, or roll. It’s what God has made for you and He’s is excited to meet you in it.

God is good All the Time!

Peder

Independence Day

photo credit: sunsurfr via photo pin cc

I can’t believe it’s July already. I love summer in Minnesota, and July marks the middle of the warm weather to me. It’s baseball, fishing, swimming, camps, MLB All Star break, really green golf courses, fireworks, and, of course, Independence Day.

July 4th carries so many memories for me. Growing up on the farm near Hitterdal, MN, we would spend the day mowing the lawn, hand washing all the vehicles, blowing things up with fireworks, and then we would travel to Detroit Lakes, MN, for a picnic, swimming, watching fireworks with the family on the beach, and then falling asleep in the back of station wagon as Dad drove us back to the farm.

I loved those times. My dad and mom did so much to make it fun and yet didn’t say yes to everything we wanted. They would try to be economical and pack as much food and drink so we wouldn’t buy anything we didn’t need. They provided all the blankets, sunscreen, sand castle making equipment, water, coffee thermos (for Dad), mosquito spray, and sweatshirts for the evening show. We were free to enjoy the day with no needs to be worried about. Freedom feels good.

That’s what Independence Day is about right?  It’s about the Founding Father’s declaring they no longer subject themselves to the tyranny of the King and England itself. Even after the declaring independence, the cost to achieve that freedom would not be measurable until it was attained. The cost of human lives sacrificed on the battlefield was not projectable. The attitude was “whatever it takes to get it done.”

It got done, and this freedom has been challenged, defended, protected, and preserved with many more lives “no matter what it takes.”  Freedom is just that important and worth it.

It’s a freedom that doesn’t allow us to do whatever we want but a freedom that says we can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

Look, my friends, I want to point you in a direction to remember the most important freedom you have. That’s the freedom from the bondage of sin that God gave us through the death AND resurrection of His Son Jesus. That Independence Day is eternal. It’s not just heaven and eternal life but it’s also freedom to pursue the Father God’s love, presence, will, grace, and not have to be afraid. No worries. It’s all been provided for you to approach your Abba Father God.

In John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Jesus took care of all your needs so you can have the freedom and independence to come into the presence of God and have no fear. The cost and sacrifice was great. In Jesus, your freedom from death has been challenged, defended, protected, and preserved. He did whatever it would take because you are worth it to Him.

No more tyranny of sin and condemnation.

Thank Jesus even as you read this for your freedom and celebrate Him. Sing. Dance. Fireworks.

God is good all the time!

Peder