Sunday, March 4, 2018

Thoughts while eating sausage

Today, Sunday, March 4, is the annual sausage supper at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Troy, IL. It is a day when all the folks of the church get together to serve a dinner for the community. Why? Really? You have to ask that question? It is a fund raiser for the church. Between the Trivia Night (May 4, 2018) and the Sausage Supper, we see the two biggest fundraisers at St. Paul's. If all goes according to plan, we will serve 1,200+ dinners through this day. That is a lot of sausage, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert.

All right, if you want to be technical, if you read the title of this blog today, you should know that I am actually writing this blog before I am eating the sausage supper. So I am thinking prior to the supper. Why now? Because I won't have time throughout this day to doing anything like this. And when it is over this evening, Penny and I will be too tired to do anything other than sit down and unwind.

Sausage supper is a great time to see folks that I haven't seen since last year. Many people pass through the doors of the Ministry Center that won't do that again until next year on the 1st Sunday of March. As I serve as the one who calls the numbers and moves people from the lobby to the dining room, I have the opportunity to say hello to all the folks that come through. Over the past 9 years, I have found that there are "regulars" who will come to the dinner. It will be nice to reconnect with them. To see how their year has gone.

There will be new people that I have never met before. It gives me a chance to say hello and see where they are from. I get to see families gather together, friends meet up and smiles being shared as talk takes place in the lobby. No, I won't be in the dining room to hear the conversation continuing. But the brief time that I get with people is priceless. I enjoy meeting new folks and talking with them. Maybe next year, they won't be "new" any longer. They will be "old" friends who come to the diner.

Then there are the workers. There are so many that must work together in order to make this day work. There are the guys who are frying the sausage and the folks working in the kitchen preparing the other parts of the meal. There are the hostesses seating the people in the dining room. There are those who prepare the tables, serve the food and then clear the tables. There are dish washers and garbage carriers. There are folks at the dessert table and people at the carry out table. And don't forget the people who sell the tickets. There are those who set things up and those who clean up afterwards. Then there are other parts of the day - the Country Store and all that goes into preparing for it, the book fair and the ones that make it happen. All of them are necessary to make the dinner be successful. We thank each one for the time that they give to make this event happen.

Is it worth it? Really worth it? There is so much that goes into having a sausage supper. Hours and hours go into this day. When it is over, is it worth it? If you look at it from the financial point of view, you would have to say, maybe. Really? Just "maybe." Yes it brings in a goodly amount of $. But if that is the only benefit of the day, it might not be worth it. There is the "working together" component that takes place at the dinner. That really is the plus of the day. This is the time when people work together for a common cause. It is a day of service to the community. Now you are talking about why today is worth the effort. Add to that the fact that many folks will come into out Ministry Center to eat the meal. For some, this is the only time they will be in St. Paul's facilities. We welcome them in and hope they have a good experience. They will judge St. Paul's on how they are accepted and treated on this day. In putting our best foot forward, this will help folks to have a positive impression of St. Paul's.

So is it worth it? Yes. As I greet each person, it is worth it. As they are seated in the gym, it is worth it. As they get up from the table after having a really good meal, it is worth it. To hear the positive words as they walk out of the dining room, it is worth it.

Yes, today is going to be a good day. Thank You Lord for giving us this day in which we can serve the people of our community.

See you are the Sausage Supper.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A drought and a drought buster

Ramblings on a a rainy. Enjoy.

It is President's Day. A day off work for me and for Penny. It has become an unusual thing for the two of us to have the same day off. My day off is Friday and hers is Saturday and Sunday. So when we get the day off together, what do we do? We go on calls together. Yes, I know, a day off is supposed to be a day off, meaning that you don't work. But there are individual spiritual needs which need to be addressed. As we have done throughout the 30 1/2 years of ministry, we go on some calls together. We still spend the day together. It brings us joy to be able to share in the ministry into which I have been called. One of the wonderful things that we have is the fact that we are in the ministry together. No, she is not Mrs. Pastor. But she is a vital part of what I do. She is my support and encourager. You might say that in many ways she is my Barnabas. (Look up the meaning of Barnabas.)

And so, today, we are heading out on calls. Spending time in the van together, enjoying the time the we have been given. The good thing is that I don't have a meeting tonight. That truly is a day off for me.

It is a rainy day. The Carpenters would sing "Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down." I don't feel that way. True, it is a pain to drive in the rain. But we really need it. All winter we have not had the rain or the snow that is needed to water the ground. We are in what Dave Murray would call a mini-drought. He said that this rain would not be a "drought buster" but it would do good to help us out.

A drought buster. I thought of that. What does it take to be a drought buster? You would have to ask Dave Murray that question. But I thought about it in spiritual terms. What is a spiritual drought and what would be a spiritual drought buster?

A spiritual drought is when you haven't worshiped the Lord for months. You haven't received the Lord's Supper for months on end. You haven't spent time God's Word for longer than you can remember. Your soul is in a spiritual drought. "But I can still be a Christian without going to church, taking communion or reading the Bible." Yes you can. Congratulations. You have joined the countless host of people who throughout the years have made that claim. Many of them have suffered terrible spiritual drought. You might even be suffered such a drought. You might not even be thinking about it being a drought. You just got out of the habit of worship. You haven't seen the need to worship. You got upset with someone at church and you refuse to come back to church until that person either apologizes or leaves (you might even feel that way about the pastor).

It doesn't matter how you got into the spiritual drought. You are in it. Perhaps you think that if you go to worship on Christmas Eve or on Easter, that will be the spiritual "drought buster" that you need. Or maybe you think that since you went at Christmas or Easter, that means you don't have a spiritual drought at all. That thinking is like today, we are getting some rain. The ground soaks it up. But if you were to dig down more than an inch, the ground would still be dry as a desert. Spiritually, going to worship on Christmas and Easter is not a "drought buster" for the soul that is spiritually dry.

What constitutes a drought buster? Spending time daily in God's Word. Joining in a regular Bible study. Attending weekly worship. Receiving the Lord's Supper when it is offered. In short, making use of the Means of Grace that the Lord has given you. Like rain is needed on a regular basis to water the earth and break a drought, so the Means of Grace are needed on a regular basis in order to break the spiritual drought in your spiritual life.

I would encourage you to avail yourself of the time of worship that is set before you. Attend the church of which you claim to be a member. Reach out to your pastor and ask him to help you in your spiritual walk. Forgive that person who offended you. Don't let the devil, the sinful world or your own sinful nature continue to cause you to live in a spiritual drought.

Let the water of the Word flow over and through you.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rambling without a direction.

Winter continues without much winter weather here in Troy, IL. We have had some cold, especially back in January. We have had a little bit of snow. Nothing to really complain about. There have been some gray days but nothing like I just read about in the Lutheran Hour Ministries devotion for today. Moscow having only 6 minutes of sunshine in January? Really. That is hard to imagine. And we complain when we have 4-5 days in a row without sunshine. That reminds me about how selfish and self-centered we can be. We are tempted to make all things about "me." But that isn't why I am writing today.

Actually, I don't know why I am writing. I just had the compulsion to blog. It has been a while and I felt the need to put down random thoughts on "paper." Nope, not really on paper. I guess it is random thoughts on the Internet. It will be "out there" for the world to see. The world for my blog is the few of you who spend the time reading these ramblings.

The Southern Illinois District begins the triennial convention this evening. We will be in convention for Thursday evening, Friday all day and Saturday morning. What is done at a convention? There is worship and study, elections of officers and board members, and resolutions discussed. What is the goal? The goal should be to better equip the congregations of the Southern Illinois District to share the message of the gospel in their communities. The goal should always be the sharing of the gospel. If we are not sharing the gospel, then we are nothing more than another civic organization. No, the Church is meant to be something different from other organizations. The Church is meant to point folks to the Savior Jesus Christ. It is meant to proclaim the good news of salvation in a world that is in desperate need of this good news. Let us pray that is what is done over the next 3 days.

What else is going on in the my life that you might want to know about? Christ forgives me. Christ leads me. Christ loves me. I pray that everything I do reflects that wonderful message.

Baseball season is almost upon us. I enjoy baseball. It is a fun diversion from the actions of the world. Boy do we need that diversion. Over and over again we see the struggles of the world. We feel those struggles in our lives. Financial struggles. Relationship struggles. Health struggles. Emotional struggles. Societal struggles. Spiritual struggles. We need this diversion to help us find some joy in the world. As a Cubs fan, I enjoy watching my team play and win. Yet, I have to say, even when they don't win, I still enjoy watching them.

As I watch the Cubs, I am reminded of the struggles of life. Sometimes you do really good. Sometimes you do really bad. You have to stay the course to make it through each year. Spiritually, that is the way it is too. Some days are really good. Some days are really bad. Through it all we live in the forgiveness of Christ and the love of the Father. We need to stay the course in both good and bad times. I would encourage you to focus your eyes on Christ as you go through today and each day. He will see you through. It might be a struggle. It might be easy. It might be overwhelming. It might slip by without so much as a whimper. Whatever you day brings, may Christ guide you through it.

Yes, I have no clue what I am going to write today. There is it. Peace and joy on you today as you live in Christ's mercy and grace.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Football playoffs made me think

Do you watch football? I know that some of you do. Yesterday was the playoff games to see who will be going to the Super Bowl. In such games, there are moments of joy and moments of sorrow. There are those who celebrated the victory of their team and those who mourned the loss of their team. It is the way it has to be. You cannot have a football game without a winner and a loser. We don't like to use the term "loser" because it might cause someone to feel bad about themselves. So they are the team that played well but did not see the outcome that they would have liked to have seen. Whatever. One wins. One loses.

That is the way of games. That is the way of life. In the business world, there are winners and there are losers. One company gets the contract, another doesn't. One city gets the Amazon center while another doesn't. In most areas of life, we see that there are winners and losers. It even happens in the church.

That is a statement that I wish I couldn't make. There really should be no winners or losers in the church. We should all be working towards the same goal of sharing the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a world that is lost in the darkness of sin. What happens is that we allow our sinful desires to get in the way. We put our thoughts, our feelings, our desires before the work of the Gospel. It becomes "my way or the highway" type of thinking.

This happens when a member doesn't like what the pastor has said or done. If they cannot get the pastor to change to fit their thinking, they hit the road, go to another church and try to get their way at that church. This happens when a discussion of what color to paint the walls or to get in carpet comes forward. This happens when it comes to how to move forward with the ministry of the congregation. Each one has their own agenda. Member and pastor alike. Each one lets their own desires come before the good of the church.

How do we change this? We look at our motivation. Is what I fighting for really what is good for the church and the gospel or is it something that I personally want? This is a tough question. It makes me look at my motivations and my desires. Why am I so adamant about this issue? Is it really something that will make a difference in the sharing of the Gospel? Is what I want the "only" way to accomplish the goal of sharing the Gospel? Are there options that I need to consider, options that may not be in accord with my desires? Tough questions.

I firmly believe that in the ministry of the church, there should be no "winners" and "losers." If we see things in those terms, then I believe that we have left behind the gospel and have become self-focused. All that is done is meant to move forward for one purpose, to reach out to others with the message of life and hope.

When things don't go quite like I desire, I need to step back, and see how the Lord wants me to become a part of this action. After the decision is made and the direction is set, instead of continuing to fight about it, how can I become a part of making it happen? How does the Lord want to use me to move the ministry forward?

Yes, ramblings of the preacher on a Monday morning. Agenda? Nope. Just thoughts. Have a blessed day.

Monday, January 1, 2018

End of the year ramblings

What do you do when one year changes to another? I asked myself that as 2017 moved into 2018. I decided that I would ramble about last year. Perhaps I will get around to thinking about 2018 but I don't know. Depends on how long I ramble on 2017.

There were some real highlights to the year. I celebrated my 30th year in the pastoral ministry. The Board of Elders of St. Paul's came up with a way to celebrate this milestone. They had a weekend in August where they had a reception after each service. It was very thoughtful of them to do this. They also gave me several gifts that were pretty amazing. I received a special 500th anniversary edition of the ESV Concordia Self Study Bible.

They also had Ruth Schmitt paint Wrigley Field in honor of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. I would have loved a repeat of this feat but it wasn't meant to be. They did make it into the National League Championship series, which was quite awesome in 2017. I appreciated the folks that came out an voiced their support as I celebrated that milestone.

I was also elected Junior Pastoral Counselor for the National Lutheran Women's Missionary League. That happened in June. Penny and I too the Southwest Chief, a train, to Albuquerque, NM for the convention. It was pretty neat being on the ballot. It was quite overwhelming to actually be elected. In truth, I didn't think I had a chance to be elected to that position. The Lord obviously had other plans so I have spent the 2nd half of 2017 serving as Junior Pastoral Counselor. Who would have thought that a pastor in southern Illinois would be elected to serve in such a capacity. I give thanks to the Lord for making this possible. I continue to learn and grow as I serve the women of the Lutheran Church.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Troy, IL celebrated the 150th anniversary in September. That was pretty awesome. Not often that something like that happens. There were a lot of people that did a lot of things to make the celebration what it was. I give thanks to the Lord for the folks that put themselves forward and worked hard to make the celebration successful. What a glorious time it was to celebrate.

If I was to say what was the most frustrating and disappointing time in 2107 was when Penny's contract as a teacher at St. Paul's was not renewed. This really caused a lot of confusion and disappointment in the family. We didn't see it coming and it really destroyed the joy in the family. Yes, we have worked through it. Penny did get another job. She really misses being involved in the ministry at St. Paul's. I miss her being a part of the ministry here as well. For the majority of the 30 years I have been a pastor, we have been in ministry together. 2017 was the first year that I would say that has not taken place. It has been a hard adjustment. I am sure that I am not supposed to say these things but when you ramble, that is what happens.

I continue to work toward my Doctor of Ministry though 2017 was not a banner year for it. I took a class in January, did some work in February. My work on the MAP proposal took a back seat to Lent and Easter and then when June hit, and everything fell apart, I didn't have time or desire to pick it back up and work on it. I am hoping that 2018 will change my attitude and I will will work on it again. I am going to take the last class that I need before I do the MAP. Here's hoping that things work out and I am able to get this completed by summer 2019. 

What else can I say? I rejoice that Penny and I are close to Rachael and Brandon. What a pleasure that is to have them so close by and to be able to spend time with them. Matthew got engaged to a lovely gal, Chelsey Seipel from Columbus, NE. 2018 will see a wedding on May 26 in Columbus, NE. We are looking forward to that day. How great it is that we are going to have another daughter in the family.

2017 was a challenge for the health. They finally found out that I have coronary artery spasms. This causes chest angina or pain. After 7 heart catheters, they finally found it. When they did the last cath, the arteries were spasmed down pretty bad and they figured that was probably the cause of the pain. Hurrah! Now they are trying to figure out the right medication to help me with the pain. I take nitro when needed, which is about 2-3 times a day. Boy will I be glad when all this is fixed. 

What else can I say about 2017? The Lord has been good to me. He has blessed Penny and me in many and various ways, beyond what I could ever describe. Despite the setbacks and the frustrations of the situation this year, I rejoice to know that the Lord is still the Lord of the Church and the Lord of St. Paul's He still leads me in the ministry. The Holy Spirit still guides me work.

In the end I would say: All glory be to God for all that He has done for me in 2017. I ask Him to forgive me for my sins. And I pray that 2018 will be a better year for both Penny and myself. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


How are you? Blessed. Have a blessed day. I received an added bonus today. Boy am I blessed. My cancer is gone. I am so blessed. Over and over again, we talk about be blessed. What do we mean by this little word?

I know what is generally meant - the Lord has watched over me and has done something good for me. He made me healthy. He gave me something I needed. He kept me safe from a moment of crisis. He has helped my family through a difficult time. And truly, you are blessed when these things happen. What a joy it is to be able to see that the Lord is the One who has guided you through a situation and brought it to an end that you appreciate. It is wonderful to see the Lord do good in your life, my life, the life of a loved one.

But what about when the cancer doesn't disappear? What about when the money doesn't come in? What about when the family is torn apart? What about when there is a death? Are you still blessed? Or do you turn from that statement and say, "No, I am not blessed. The Lord messed up and didn't do what I wanted Him to do."

I guess what I am thinking about today is how the Lord responds to our prayers. We have developed into a Christian culture that uses God to get what we want. We pray. Then expect that the answer is always going to be "yes." Now I know that what some will point to: "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord: he is a double-minded man, unstable in his ways." (James 1:6-7) See, if we ask, believe that God will give it to you, and He will. He has too. He has promised that He will give it to you. If you doubt that He will do it, then He will not do it. If you believe that He will do it, then He will do it.

Wait, does that mean I can control what God does? Does it mean that if I pray for something, really believe that I will receive it, then I will receive it? If I really, really, really believe that God will fix my heart problem, then He will fix my heart problem? If I believe that God will give me a better paying job, then He will give me a better paying job?

Some would say yes. I would say, I don't know. You see, God is still God. He is in control of my life and my situation. I do not control God. I do not control the destiny of my life. I am not God. That's right, I am not God. I am one who trusts in God, loves Him and follow Him. But I do not control Him. But what about these verses? They tell us that if we believe it, then we receive it.

Let's look at the verses that precede these. Let's get the context. James writes, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting..." (James 1:2-6a) Does this talk about using God like a grandfather who will give you whatever you ask? Does it mean that you control what God does or gives to you? No. It is talking about the fact that God will guide you, uphold you and be with you through all sorts of trials and tribulations. It talks about asking for wisdom. Wisdom for what? Wisdom to understand that God is producing steadfastness of faith in you through the trials that you are facing. It isn't telling you that God has become your in the sky.

How do I get here? I have been thinking about being blessed. Are we only blessed when things go well? No, we are blessed every day as we live in the grace of God. We are blessed to be called children of God. You are blessed when the cancer continues and the treatments make you ill. You are blessed when job stinks and the people around you are a pain in the neck. You are blessed when the car doesn't start, when the traffic is backed up and moving slow. You are blessed when the family doesn't make it home for Thanksgiving or for Christmas.

How can I say that? You are blessed because blessing doesn't rely upon receiving that which we ask for. Blessing comes from God day in and day out, without your asking. It comes because of His love for you. You are blessed in Christ Jesus. You are blessed as you receive forgiveness of sins. You are blessed as you live each day as a child of God. You are blessed.

I know why we say "I am blessed because my car started in this cold weather." What I want you to remember is that you are blessed when the car doesn't start on that cold morning. You are blessed because the Lord is still with you. He hasn't turned His back on you because your car didn't start. He is still right there, with you, blessing you. The blessing we receive from the Lord is a blessing that transcends the here and now. It is a blessing that is much deeper and more meaningful that the physical. It is a spiritual blessing that is part of our lives day after day, 24/7, 365.

I will still say that I am blessed when the health is given. I will tell someone that the Lord has blessed them when the family is all together. I will rejoice that the Lord has blessed the physical life. Yes I will. And I am sure that you will too.

But remember this, you are blessed. Period. Good or bad in your life, you are blessed. Health or illness in your life, you are blessed. Why? There my friends, take a look in the manger. You will see your true blessing.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Randomness in the morning.

Cold air. Darkness. Christmas lights. Barking dogs. Hot tea. What do all these have to do with each other? As I sit here this morning, all of those things are tied together. Here in December, it is dark outside. The sun comes up later and later. It goes down earlier and earlier. For many, these are difficult days. There is not enough hours of daylight. And for most folks, those hours of daylight are spent at work, where they cannot experience them. If they are lucky enough to have windows to see the short hours of daylight, they rejoice. Darkness - into this darkness comes a Savior, the Light of the world. He comes to lighten the darkness of sin that encompasses each heart. He comes to break the grip of darkness on the hearts and lives of all people. The Light is Christ, the Child born in Bethlehem.

Cold air. It is December. It is supposed to be cold, at least here in Illinois. This cold blast has reached all the way to the gulf coast. They are probably grumbling about the cold more than we are here in the central part of the country. But I tell you what, I sure seem to be affected by the cold more now than when I was younger. That is part of life. It reminds me that I am living in a world affected by sin. It is fallen. I am fallen. My very nature is sinful. As the years go on, as more things seem to pop up in my life, like the less than pleasing effect cold has upon me especially in the morning, it reminds me that I need a Savior. Yes, once again such a thing points that out. Each time I grumble about the cold, it reminds me that I am not able to change anything, including the weather. I can't even change my spiritual situation. Without a Savior, my heart remains cold and lifeless. Without a Savior, my heart will grow colder as I grow older. Only through the new life given by Christ Jesus can my heart grow warm (metaphorically speaking). He comes into this cold person that I am and gives me a new life that is filled with the warmth of His love and forgiveness.

Darkness, cold air. What next? Christmas lights and barking dogs. Hmmmm. What about these two things? Well, the Christmas lights make things brighter. They brighten up a dark neighborhood. They are meant to remind us of the Light of Christ that has come into this world. We have a neighbor down the road who decorates greatly. He has more lights out than one can imagine. It really brightens the neighborhood up. He leaves them on all night. As such, they remind us of Christ shining in the dark world. As joyous as that is, it leads to barking dogs. My dogs. Sorry neighbors. I get onto them in the early morning hours and don't let them stay outside barking. But they are able to see things they wouldn't normally see/ Why? Christmas lights brighten things up and cast strange shadows in places there have not been shadows. They causes "concern" in the dogs minds and they bark. Yep, they bark because of the extra light that is not normally there. Barking dogs and Christmas lights - go together. Christ brings light into the world and Satan doesn't like it. Satan would prefer that it remained dark. He would be silent (not really but he wants us to think that he would). If Christ didn't bring light into the world, then Satan would be content to let the darkness continue. Christ's light exposes those works of sin, the works of darkness. Turn the lights out, then those works would not be seen and there would be no problem. What to do? Light up the world! Make it shine brightly, not with Christmas lights, but with the Light of Christ. Show sin for sin. And bring Christ to all who are struggling.

Hot tea? I threw that in because I like to sit here and drink my hot tea in the morning. It warms me up. I enjoy it. I like to drink my tea while I read my Bible, do my devotions and prepare for the day. So hot tea is part of my daily routine. So is the Word. One is desired and one is needed. I will let you decide which is which.

Cold air. Darkness. Christmas lights. Barking dogs. Hot tea. Random thoughts brought together in the rambling mind of this preacher. All of them point me to one thing - Christ Jesus. Yes, living in the Light of Christ sure ties everything together.