Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One clever way to display the coins

A few weeks ago one of our members, Christy, stopped by the office with something she wanted me to see.  Over the summer our Encouragement Team had commemorative coins made for interested members.  One side of the coin had our LICL logo (heart/flame/cross) and the other side was the artist rendering of our new, expanded facility.

Christy took her coins and a small drawing of the new facility to a place like Hobby Lobby and had the picture and coins framed.  My picture (above) really doesn't do this little piece of artwork justice. Christy told me that she paid more money than she wanted to (custom framing is expensive!) but she felt it was worth having something that would "remind her of her church and it's efforts to serve its members and reach our community."

As Christy left I thought, "Couldn't have said it better myself!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My buddy, Howie

I remember the first time I met Howie.  My youngest daughter, Katie, and her husband, Josh, had been thinking about getting a dog.  Katie wanted to get a rescue dog and located a shelter to visit. While working at church one afternoon I got a call from Katie.  She wanted to know if I'd like to meet the new addition to her family. How could I say no?

The dog was filthy and very afraid, shaking.  I wondered if it had been abused in some way.  We asked Katie what kind of breed the dog was.  She said the shelter thought he had some chow in him. Connie speculated that there might be some terrier in the mix.  I asked, "Do you have a name?" Katie did.  "His name is Howie."

Every Sunday after church the family would gather at our house for dinner.  Howie came along.  He soon became very comfortable around our house.  We were comfortable with him, all of us except our cat, Hope.  Hope was not crazy about other animals taking up residence on her property.  But after awhile even Hope learned to tolerate Howie.

When the Cardinals played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, like most Americans, we had a party.  The game was nerve-wracking and to break the tension, I decided to teach Howie how to sit up. What dog doesn't sit up? Every time Howie made a good effort he got a dog bone.  By the third quarter he was sitting up like a champion.  Straight back.  Paw out to shake hands.  He ate most of the bowl of dog treats that day.  The Cardinals lost but Howie won!

Two years ago my daughter's family moved to Wisconsin.  I miss them all - including Howie.  So visiting there on vacation is a real treat.  Howie and I go for long walks.  He can count on me for a dog treat (or three!).  The picture above is one of my favorites.  Howie seems really pleased to see me again.

I know I was.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Remembering Joyce

This morning at 10 am we will gather at LICL to remember our sister in Christ, Joyce Haynes.  Joyce fell asleep in Jesus about a month ago; at that time the family held a grave side committal service and elected to wait until now to hold a memorial service.  Joyce was faithful in worship and Bible study attendance.  She loved to receive the Lord's Supper and was glad to receive Jesus' reassurance that all her sins were forgiven.  A reception will be held for the family following the service.

Later this afternoon worship takes place at 5 pm.  I will be preaching at all services this weekend and the title for the sermon is "A Case of the Fat Head."  You want to know more, don't you? Come and join us.

Sunday morning we follow the usual schedule - worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Bible classes at 9:20 am.  Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, August 26, 2016

How high is high enough?

While he waited for the great flood to begin, Noah had to house the various animals.  He built a special eight foot high fenced enclosure for the two kangaroos, but during the first night in the fence, they escaped.  Noah found them hopping around outside the following morning.  So he increased the height to 15 feet, but the kangaroos escaped again.

Exasperated, he added another 15 feet to the enclosure.  The kangaroos still escaped.  After Noah put the 'roos back inside the fence, they were approached by one of the giraffes.  "How high do you think Noah will build the fence this time?" the giraffe asked.

"I don't know," answered the female kangaroo.  "But he might eventually get it to 1,000 feet if he keeps leaving the gate unlocked!"

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Who is our mission?

Author Ken Callahan offers a very good answer:

In the mission growth movement, the compelling question is, "Who is our mission?" That is, "Who is God inviting us to serve in mission?" God invites us to a theology of service, not a theology of survival.  God invites us to a theology of mission, not a theology of maintenance.  God plants around us people with whom we can constructively be in mission.

From "A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations"
page 12

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Kiss of Death

I have bad news today for Arizona Cardinals fans.

We're not going to win the Super Bowl.

We may not even play for the NFC Championship.

In fact, this could be a most disappointing year for the Cardinals.

Why am I so sure of all of this?

Because Sports Illustrated magazine has picked the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl.

Even worse, the Cardinals will be on the cover of the magazine (one of four regional covers to be published).

You see, many sports fans believe that to be on the cover of SI is like having a curse placed on your favorite player or team.

There is no scientific proof of this.  I don't believe that anyone has actually researched the cursed effect of being an SI pick.

What I do believe is that it isn't very helpful for your team to get so much positive press before a single pass has been thrown in the regular season.

Yes, the Cardinals should have a Super Bowl contending team.  All their offensive skill players are back and they've made some key additions on the defensive side of the ball.

All of this should encourage us as the NFL kicks off another season next month.

But I'm still remembering the stink bomb the Cardinals fired off as they got destroyed by Seattle at the end of the season.  I'm remembering how Arizona got by Green Bay only through the magnificent play of future Hall of Fame receiver, Larry Fitzgerald.  And I'm remembering how the Cardinals were thoroughly dismantled by Carolina in the NFC Championship game.

Some might say, "Ancient History! Don't live in the past!"

I lived in Missouri for 13 years.  Missouri is called "the show me state."

So I guess I'm waiting for the regular season to get underway for the Cardinals to show me that they really are a Super Bowl contender.

If Sports Illustrated hasn't already ruined everything with the curse!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not impressed at all

My grandson, Drew (holding something he caught in his back yard), is totally into policemen and firemen.  He has full uniforms and the stuff that goes with them.  He watches videos of those who serve and protect us over and over again and never tires of them.  If you want Drew's undivided attention just say something like, "Look over there - a fire truck!" No matter what Drew is doing - playing with toys, annoying his little brother - he will stop and check it out.  And then he'll describe what you're seeing.  He knows his stuff!

Drew and his family live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the mecca for professional football.  At this time of year, every thing in the city shifts to the Packers.  His Mom, Katie, says the first news store on the local stations each night is about the Packers.  Also, the second, third, forth and fifth.  Sometimes, the top stories reported on every other news outlet in the world aren't mentioned at all.  Instead, reporters will talk breathlessly about Aaron Rogers' vegan diet or the seventh round draft pick (who no one has ever heard of) who has a great chance to make the team.  Of course, the weather gets a mention in every newscast - just so everyone knows what conditions will be like for the next day's team practice.

Katie, told me over the weekend that after church the family went to a local restaurant to get some lunch.  As they walked in, Drew spotted two policemen who had taken a break to eat.  Drew was enthralled!  He couldn't even eat his lunch.  He couldn't take his eyes off the men in blue.

A few minutes later a Packers football player entered the restaurant.  For everyone in the restaurant, it seemed as if time had stopped.  "Look! It's Eddie Lacy!" Lacy is the star running back for the Pack. He's not as popular as Aaron Rogers but he's still a pretty big deal.  Everyone in the restaurant had their eyes on Eddie Lacy.

Except one.  Drew.

Drew could have cared less.  He wouldn't have been impressed if the entire Packer roster had had come in to eat.  No one could compare with those two police officers.

All this proves one thing - Drew has not yet been inflicted with Packers fever.

His mother feels really good about that.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ice Bucket Challenge Today!

Join us this morning at 9 am at Life in Christ, 14802 N. 75th Avenue in Peoria for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!

We have no idea how many folks will show up.  Ministry teams have been challenged.  Pet owners have challenged other pet owners.  Special songs have been written.  It's going to be unlike anything we've ever done at Life in Christ.

And we're doing it all for Mary Croushore, our beloved sister in Christ, dear friend, and fellow worker in God's kingdom.  Mary has shown us wonderful faith and courage in these past weeks.  If you have a prayer list, please add Mary's name, won't you?

So the water starts flying at 9 am.  Contributions to ALS can be made today as well.  We hope you will come!

This afternoon we'll worship at 5 pm and tomorrow at 8 and 10:45 am.  My sermon is entitled, "Declare His Glory ~ Tell His Story."  Also, we kick off a new season of Sunday school at 9:20 am.  Our kids will sing at the later service, teachers will be installed and we recognize our outgoing superintendent for her faithful service.

Hope to see you this weekend at LICL!

Friday, August 19, 2016

We're Lutherans!

Today's Friday Funny...

A Mom was discussing with her young son the events of Holy Week, including Palm Sunday and how the events of the week led to Jesus' crucifixion and the crowds jeering Him.  I also explained how we, as Christians, all take part in Jesus' death.

The boy thought for a moment and said, "But Mom, we're not Christians.  We're Lutherans!"

Adapted from "Laughing with Lutherans," page 87

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dependency - on What or on Whom?

A prayer from Donald Deffner...

When I feel
the necessity
to eat more
to take another drink
or another pill
divert my craving
O Lord
to a greater need
for You
Take my suffering
deterioration and helplessness
and make my 
"bottoms up"
"one more for the road"
but rather a
hitting bottom
which results in my
total dependence
on You
that by the power
of Your Spirit alone
I may experience
Christ's resurrection
in my life
and look not 
but always see You
face to face

From "Prayers For People Under Pressure" page 33

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our helper

The Luther statue inside the Castle Church, Wittenburg, Germany, 2011

Yesterday's "Faith Alone" devotional offered some insights from Luther on the Holy Spirit.  See if you don't find his words helpful:

The name "helper" shows us how we should think of the Holy Spirit.  A helper is not a lawgiver or someone like Moses, who frightens us with the devil, death and hell.  No, a helper fills a troubled heart with joy towards God.  A helper encourages us to be happy that our sins have been forgiven, death has been conquered, heaven has been opened, and God is smiling upon us.

Whoever understands what it means for the Spirit to be our helper will have already won the battle. That person will find nothing but pure comfort and joy in heaven and on earth.  Because the Father is the one who send this helper, and because Christ is the one who asks Him to do so, this is certainly not done out of anger.  Instead, this flows from a fatherly, heartfelt love.  So Christians should remind themselves of this name and title for the Holy Spirit.  He is the helper, and we are the troubled and timid ones whom He helps.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Over 50,000 served!

Readers, that it.

Over the weekend, the counter on my blog noted that we have gone over the 50,000 mark.

When I started this blog 5 years ago last May, I had no idea that we'd still be going at it today.

The blog began as a way of keeping a record of what I did during a three month renewal trip in 2011.

I was going to shut it down a few months after I got back to work but discovered that there were those who were reading it every day and wanted it to continue.

I decided to keep going but established one rule for myself.

I limit myself to spending 20 minutes making the daily entry.

I did this to try and ensure that the blog wouldn't become a full time job.

This may explain the quality of writing that you get.  Sorry about that!

I've noticed that most blogs have some kind of focus or theme which is carried out each day.

I'm all over the place.  You may get something on sports one day, the Beatles the next, my grandkids the third day or some devotion or sermon I've recently written.

So, again, I'm very surprised that the counter continues to roll.

Well, my 20 minutes is just about up.  Let me just send out my thanks to all of you who check out the blog either daily or just from time to time.

Time is precious and I appreciate yours!

Monday, August 15, 2016

They say it's Dan's birthday!

My friend, Dan Seabreeze is celebrating a birthday today.  According to Connie Kanzler, Office Administrator Extraordinaire, Dan turned "double nickels" today.  For the rest of us, Dan is 55 years old - the youngest looking 55 year old man in the country.

The Lord has used Dan to bless our church in ways too numerous to count.  His contributions to our music ministry have been invaluable.  His experience in running his own advertising/marketing business has helped LICL extend its reach into the community and has helped us better serve our own members.  Dan has been a willing servant of Christ and his witness has encouraged us all.

This picture was taken at our Small Group Christmas Party.  I'm not sure what Dan is doing here. Perhaps, he's proving that even at "double nickels" he can still be the life of the party.

Happy birthday, Dan!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Getting ready for #doitformary

This morning I'll be meeting with some talented and helpful people to organize next week's Ice Bucket Challenge to support and encourage Mary Croushore and raise funds for ALS research. I can occasionally come up with a good idea - implementation is not my strong suite.  So I really appreciate those who are willing to help get things ready so we can have a successful event.  You'll be hearing more about our plans throughout the week here at the blog.

This afternoon, my little group (sans Connie) will provide the music at the 5 pm worship service. Tomorrow, you can join us at LICL at 8 or 10:45 am for worship with classes for all ages at 9:20 am. Hope to see you this weekend at Life in Christ!

Friday, August 12, 2016

An easy solution!

Today's Friday Funny....

A frustrated dad of a teenager was complaining to his church's youth pastor.  "I try to discipline Scott by sending him to his room right after super," he said, "but he has his own high-def TV, a killer sound system, a state-of-the-art computer, his own phone and a mini-fridge.  I should be so lucky."

"You know what you need to do?" the youth pastor advised.


"Next time, send Scott to your room!"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is there such a thing as Olympics fatigue?

My dear, sweet wife is not much for watching sports.  She finds baseball rather boring.  She'll only watch the last two minutes of basketball or football games (and then complain about how long it takes to play those two minutes!).

But she does enjoy watching the Olympics.  She appreciates the competition between countries and finds some of the human interest stories rather inspiring.

But last night's coverage on NBC did her in.

You would have thought that the only Olympic sport was swimming.  Race after race after race was shown.

And because all of the races had already taken place, the outcomes were already settled.  Takes a bit of the drama out of the events.

Finally, Sherri had seen enough.  "Is there anything else but swimming to watch?"

I began looking at some of the other NBC channels and found a fencing match.

I don't know much about fencing.  But as a boy I really thought Zorro was cool!

We found the match quite exciting.  The Italian competitor had fallen well behind in the match but, with time running out, began to make a thrilling comeback.  We were on the edge of our seats, cheering the Italian on to victory.

Unfortunately, time ran out and our favorite lost the match.

But it was refreshing to have watched something different.

Then we switched back to NBC to see yet another swimming race taking place.

With that, the TV went off and Sherri and I grabbed the books we're reading.

I checked the TV schedule for tonight's prime time coverage and guess what - more swimming!

But with some gymnastics thrown in.

I wonder what books we'll read tonight?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

His life in now alive in us!

I've written before of my admiration for author Jane Fryer.  Her devotional comments in CPH's "Today's Light Bible" are worth the price of the book.  Writing on Hosea, chapter 13, Fryer penned these words: The death that was ours, is ours no longer.  The grave that belonged to us, belongs to us no more.  That death became Christ's death.  That grave became His grave.  And His life is now - right now - alive in us by grace.

Page 1241

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top 10 Reasons for Celebrating Connie's 10 Years at LICL

Our Office Administrator, Connie Kanzler, celebrated her 10th anniversary of working with us at Life in Christ this weekend.  For about my first 18 months as pastor I did the secretarial work around the office.  In the beginning there wasn't that much to do.  But as I moved into my second year of ministry, the work began to pick up, there were more members to serve and our Board of Ministry Directors decided that we could afford to pay someone to work in the office.  I had spoken with Connie and learned that she had just retired from teaching school and was wanting to work and serve in the church.  She came in and without much help from me, figured out what the job entailed and dived right into the deep end of the pool, so to speak.  She has been amazing to work with and her service has been such a blessing to our church.  So, here are the top 10 reasons to celebrate Connie's 10th anniversary:

10) She helps to create a joyful atmosphere in which to work

9) Her dog, Scooter, is the perfect "comfort dog" for our members

8) She laughs easily at her mistakes

7) She laughs easily at my poor attempts at humor

6) She makes time for everyone who needs her

5) She always seems to have something good to eat hidden away in her desk

4) She demands a high level of excellence from herself

3) She always points troubled people to Jesus

2) She loves to use her gift of music as a way of giving glory to God

And the number one reason for celebrating Connie's 10 years at LICL?

1) She shines the light of Jesus' love to everyone who walks through our office doors!

Here's to you, Connie! God's best to you today!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Crossing one of the most famous roads in the world!

On August 8, 1969, John, Paul, George and Ringo walked across this crosswalk to create the iconic Abbey Road album cover.  On June 25, 2011, George and Sherri did the same.  I am wearing the Beatles t-shirt that Mike Schutt gave to me and I remembered to talk off my shoes, just like Paul.  It was a Saturday and there were dozens of people there at Abbey Road.  Some groups literally held up traffic as they tried to get their own replica of Abbey Road album cover.  Valuing our lives, we waited until traffic let us cross the street legally.  Our photo was taken by a 20 something American who was spending the summer taking classes in London.  She was like so many others we met on our trip - not even born when Beatlemania took the world by storm and yet totally into the music and creativity of the Beatles.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

There was ice, water and a bucket

Yesterday, Dan Seabreeze and I filmed a short video to use in the announcements for this weekend's worship.  Dan, as usual, produced a wonderful video which includes music and other effects.  He always takes my simple ideas and makes something pretty cool out of them.

To see the video, join us for worship.  Today's service takes place at 5 pm with Kevin Svec's group providing the music.  Tomorrow, we worship at the usual times - 8 am and 10:45 am (Bible classes for all ages meets at 9:20 am).  I'll be preaching on the topic of worry.  Since I am an expert on the topic I feel well qualified to tackle the subject.  If you are prone to worry you'll want to receive the encouragement and help God's Word offers for those of us with charge cards to the Worry Store.

Hope you have a blessed weekend!

Friday, August 5, 2016

What do you think, son?

Here's today's Friday Funny, taken from "Laughing with Lutherans."

Sunday mornings I would get up early to review my sermon and prepare for worship.  When my son, Jeremy, was 5, he wandered into my study one Sunday and asked what I was doing.  When I told him I was practicing my sermon, he asked if he could listen.  I proceeded to read through it as Jeremy listened attentively.

When I finished he asked, "Is that it?"

"Yes," I replied.  "What did you think of it?"

Without hesitation he answered, "Long enough."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hang on!

Going through a challenging time in your life? Frustrated with certain people or situations? Ready to give up on your marriage or job or future.  Martin Luther has a message for you:

Hang on.  God will remain faithful.  Don't despair.  Cling to the truth the psalmist proclaims: "Wait with hope for the Lord.  Be strong, and let your heart be courageous." (Psalm 27:14).  The Lord won't extinguish a smoking wick but instead will make it glow brightly.  He won't break the damaged cattail but instead will strengthen it (Isaiah 42:3).

From "Faith Alone," August 3 devotional reading

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What impresses God

Last Sunday in the sermon I made a reference to the television program, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."  That caused me to remember a journal entry I made from a number of years ago.

God isn't impressed by the consumption lifestyle of the rich and famous. God is pleased with the mission lifestyles of the repentant and faithful.

Leonard Sweet, from "Soul Salsa," page 176

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Thinking about Loren

In 1988 I moved my family from Mesa to Edwardsville, Illinois.  I had become a partner in a radio broadcast group and uprooted my family from the Valley of the Sun to what would be our headquarters in St. Louis.

It was a difficult move.  We left family, the church and pastor who had fed us with God's Word and sacraments, lots of great friends, a nice home and neighborhood.

As we embarked on this new adventure my dear, sweet wife and I decided we could do one thing to make the transition easier - quickly find a new church home.  We did so at Trinity Lutheran in Edwardsville.

The church also had a day school so all three of the kids were enrolled.  We quickly got to know lots of other parents who warmly welcomed us, although many asked, "Why in the world did you move here? People from here move to Arizona!"

During our five years at Trinity we met lots of nice people and made some friendship that have lasted to this day.  One of those friends was a retired gentleman named Loren Ligon.

Loren was a faithful worshipper and loved attending Bible classes.  He took a shine to our family and always had a piece of candy in his pocket for our youngest daughter.  Unfortunately, sometimes the candy didn't always have the wrapper on it.  Katie remembered a time when Loren handed her a piece of candy covered with lint.  She politely took the candy and then waited until Loren had moved on. The candy went in the garbage can.

After living in Edwardsville for five years I decided to leave the radio business and attend Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  Loren was delighted with this decision and after we moved we would receive a small gift from him each month.  It wasn't much but he wanted to show his support as best he could. Then, one day, he gave me the surprise of my life.

He called and asked if I could meet him at a certain place on a Saturday morning.  I don't remember the name of the place now.  But he said he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee.  I thought we were meeting at a restaurant.  But when I pulled up at the address Loren had given me, I was parked in front of a men's clothing store.

I walked in and found Loren with a couple of well dressed men.  He announced, "Here is a future pastor and we've got to make sure he looks his best!" I said, "Loren, I thought we were meeting for a cup of coffee?"  Loren replied, "We are - but first I have to buy you a suit of clothing!"

I protested.  I told him he didn't need to do any such thing.  I told him I had plenty of clothes.  I said "no!"

Loren didn't take "no" for an answer.  Before we were done, he had purchased for me a double-breasted black suit, a sport coat to match my black slacks, three pairs of black socks and a new pair of shoes.  I don't know how much Loren spent that day (he wouldn't tell me) but it was a lot more than you'd spend on a cup of coffee.

Later, at a diner, I asked Loren about his generosity.  "Why did you do this, Loren?"

"Because I can and because I want to."  Loren, I learned,  had helped support other seminarians through the years.  He felt like he had a personal connection to me and my family so he saw his small monthly gifts and the suit of clothing as one way he could encourage us all.

Loren's support and interest in our family continued through my first two years at Seminary.  Before my second year we met at the clothing store again.  This time he bought a blue blazer, "An essential part of any man's wardrobe"), a couple of pairs of slacks and another pair of shoes.  He also brought a big bag of hard candy that I was to give to Katie.  Loren hadn't forgotten her love of sweets.

Our years at the seminary were exciting but also challenging.  We had downsized and were living in a house less than half the size of the home we had owned.  I received a small paycheck from the radio group (a generous offer on their part); otherwise, we lived on Sherri's paycheck.  At times Sherri was a single parent, while my nose was buried in one book or another.  We dealt with some pretty tough days.

But God used people like Loren Ligon to bless and encourage us.  We had left a community where we really felt like we were fitting in only to start all over again.  But were weren't forgotten.  Not by Loren.  And not by the Lord.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What instrument do you play?

Earlier this summer 16 of us from LICL participated in an evangelism/discipleship workshop called Awaken/Activate.  The workshop was designed to help disciples of Jesus identify our gifts and passions and to use those things to find our place in God's mission to witness Christ to other people.

Through the workshop I was encouraged to pursue something that I participated in while at my former church in South Carolina.  Myself and others found joy by working with and serving developmentally disabled adults.  Our ministry and outreach to this group of people was fulfilling and much fun.  In the coming months I'm going to pursue a new opportunity that has opened up to me and to our church.  I can't wait to see what God does this time.

Thinking about the workshop reminded me of something Max Lucado wrote in his book, "Outlive Your Life."

There are things only you can do and you are alive to do them.  In the great orchestra we call life, you have an instrument and a song.

What's your instrument? What's your song? In what way or ways has God gifted you? Have you ever considered a favorite hobby as a way that you could reach out to others and witness Christ to them? Do you have a particular gift that as you put it to use would enable you to show the love of Jesus to others?

Sometimes we think that we need some kind of special training in order to participate in God's mission of making disciples.  Maybe all we need to do is to see and understand how God's has blessed and gifted us and then put those gifts to work.

Go out today and make a joyful noise to the Lord! (Psalm 100)