Some Days are Funny

Change abounds. Life flows. You can either smile and laugh, or weep and fear.

Today I want to offer a post that doesn’t fit nicely in the normal theme of this blog. This isn’t a reflection about leadership, or the church. This really isn’t about neighbor love either. It might fit under an umbrella of “vocation,” but that would be a stretch.

One of the many things that Allison and I have in common, is our love of baseball and especially the Seattle Mariners. This is just one of the countless times we have gone to a game together. We were early, watching on at batting practice hoping to snag a ball. We didn't end up with one, but there's always next time.
One of the many things that Allison and I have in common, is our love of baseball and especially the Seattle Mariners. This is just one of the countless times we have gone to a game together. We were early, watching on at batting practice hoping to snag a ball. We didn’t end up with one, but there’s always next time.

This post is about two things that I love: life and baseball.

Life is fun right now. Imagining possibilities, wonderful conversations, and seeing what might be next.

Life is also a bit bumpy right now. This isn’t so much for me, but for many people around me- friends and family going through major life transitions and all of the questions, wondering, and emotions that come with them.

You might be wondering about where any of this is funny? Well, I am getting to that.

I find rest and assurance in the promises, found in God to be sure. These promises make sense and provide hope in the midst of life. But I also find space to rest, relax, and really to simply be by spending some “me” time taking in some baseball and football on TV.

I have mentioned before how I am a sports fan. Well, my number one team, the first team I ever loved to watch, support, root for and potentially imagine myself being a part of in some way, were the Seattle Mariners. (For those of you who aren’t sports fans, that is the Major League Baseball team in Seattle.) This past weekend, was a joy and it reminded me what it can be like to stay up late rooting on your team with something to play for.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how I thought the Mariners were a mess. Fast forward to the present day, and the Mariners just played half-way through their final game, and it mattered (well until about 2:46pm PDT anyway on Sunday September 28, 2014). Up to that point, the Mariners had a chance. Up to that point, the Mariners mattered. Isn’t that what we all hope for as sports fans, that our favorite team is playing a game that matters up to the end? That the dream of a championship is alive? That dream was alive until the middle of the afternoon yesterday.

Again, you might be wondering how any of this is funny? Shouldn’t I be sad? No, it’s all kind of funny. By all rights, the Mariners should not have been in position to be challenging for a playoff spot given how poorly they had played over the past week or so. But things kept happening, and two other teams kept losing to keep giving the Mariners a chance. What was funny is that, I was able to put my rational brain aside for a couple days, and believe. It didn’t make sense. Yet, there was just something a bit magical about them. Saturday night, they had to win to keep their hopes alive. They did win. I stayed up and watched that entire game. I was up to the very end in extra innings, just after midnight central time. (I am a morning person, who happens to have a church job where I get up by 6am on Sundays). I wasn’t even tired.

It’s all kind of funny to me. The Mariners, for a few days anyway, and for their whole season, reminded me what it can be like to dream and root on your home team. I mean, I certainly know what that feels like having rooted the Seahawks to the Super Bowl this past year. But the Mariners were, and remain, my favorite team. They made me smile. They made me laugh. And you know what, unlike a year ago, I think this team is going in the right direction and after this season, I think next year could be a very bright one for this ball-club.

I know this is what every sports fan says and hopes. But as of today, I believe it.

Some days are funny. But I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. They put life in perspective. They can some times make us laught at ourselves, and help us to not take ourselves too seriously. They can also give us a few hours of excitement and reprieve from the other spinning plates of life’s adventures and discernment. Thank you Mariners for a fun year! Enjoy the off-season, but most importantly come back hungry next year, with another great bat or two preferably.


Fretheim and Brueggemann

Earlier this week I shared Walter Brueggemann’s “Terence and Faith Fretheim Lecture,” entitled “Why the Old Testament Must Not Go Away.” The next day, Luther Seminary hosted a few other related events that I think are definitely worth sharing as well.

First, here is a video of Walter Brueggemann discussing preaching on the Old Testament.

Second, in chapel that morning at Luther Seminary, Terry Fretheim preached the sermon, which included tons of richness reflecting on Ezekiel, “Calvary,” and the roles of pastors and faith leaders.

Finally, following chapel, Mark Throntveit moderated a conversation between Terry Fretheim and Walter Brueggemann regarding the Old Testament.

I hope you enjoy these videos and find them thought provoking for your work, ministry and daily life. Thank you again to Luther Seminary for sharing these wonderfully rich gifts.

Resisting Perfection and Performance in Worship

If you are a part of a congregation, faith community, or serve or volunteer with a non-profit, you know that it is important to cultivate volunteers or “lay leaders.” You probably also know that when you are building capacity of these volunteers and leaders there will likely be challenges, growth opportunities and growing pains along the way. Perfection won’t always be possible. Perhaps it shouldn’t even be the goal?

My friends Carrie and Peter included me in a conversation on Twitter last week, and I have decided to finally think with them regarding this.

Taking a step back, the title of this post probably seems a bit odd to you. If you know me well, it probably sounds even odder. But there is something to be said about resisting an urge for perfection and performance. The larger world and culture demand perfection and demand performance now. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. The challenge when it comes to worship though is that it seemingly creates a group of people who are the “performers” rather than an idea that all people are important parts of the worship experience, worshiping together.

From what I have seen, the cultural focus on perfection and performance has taken a serious toll on congregations and faith communities. Less people, perhaps, sing in worship because they don’t feel they have a gift to sing and join the song. This creates more passivity in worship, and even a sense of consumerism. “They will sing to me and I will listen,” rather than, “we will sing and praise God together.”

Less people are willing to participate in a Bible Study, or help lead education or faith formation in a congregation because they believe that both should be pastor (or at least well-trained staff) led. There is also a fear. They believe they don’t know much about the Bible, the Word of God, and are afraid of talking about it with others and being seen as if they don’t know about it, or that they themselves aren’t perfect.

Some of those gathered for Tapestry
A new mission start, like Tapestry, pictured here, is only possible if people openly wonder “what if” and are honest about wanting to experiment about new ways and possibilities. In such wondering, perfection isn’t the focus, rather, wondering how do we gather and worship God is.

These are just two examples in the congregation. But if you think about it more, think of all the areas that have implications like this. If you don’t think you are that good with money or are afraid you might make a mistake, you are less apt to be willing to help in stewardship.

If you are afraid that you aren’t a very good leader, you are less likely to serve on the church council. These fears of imperfection, or the focus on perfection are hindering communities, they are stunting growth and they don’t allow people to really be who they are becoming, to develop and to grow.

Its time to get a little messy! Even though popular culture strives to focus on perfection, it’s time to realize that’s not reality and its not how the world works. The world is far from perfect. We proclaim this every week in worship, recognizing that the world is both beautifully created and loved, but also broken. We are to be a part of the healing work of God, doing God’s work in the world in different capacities. The problem is, if we believe we have to be perfectionists in doing it, it’s quite likely nothing will ever get done. Do you see my point?

If we are so focused on being perfect, then we will never experiment. New things will be few and far between. New ideas will struggle even more than they do now to take hold. And less and less people will feel comfortable wondering and imagining “what if…”

I had a junior high teacher who was adamant about hating the question and statement, “What if…” He wanted to focus on the facts. But today, I openly disagree with that teacher. We need more people in this world wondering, “What if…” Because it’s really with that question where we can start to turn the page and work for something better.

Yes, the “what if” starts with a recognition that the way things are now isn’t perfect, or at least not ideal and there needs to be a change. If we as leaders in communities, congregations, etc., help people wonder “what if” well, then hopefully we will also help people overcome the repeated notion of needing the answer to be perfect. We need to create space where someone feels safe to try, experiment, see, imagine and witness what a better way or alternative might be. This can only happen though if we can work through our fears of imperfection.

Returning specifically to worship, what if instead of focusing on everyone performing in their role- whether it be related to music, sacraments, offering, etc., we focus more on allowing space for people to serve? After all, if worship is about praising God, then who is to decide if our worship is good enough? Is it perfect? I don’t really think that’s up to us at all. It’s really up to God. How’s that for a counter-cultural idea? The focus doesn’t rest on us at all.

What do you think? Are you ready? Its time to get a little messy! 

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on my blog means that I get to share links to some things I have found interesting and thought provoking over the past week with all of you. This week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Bishop Mike Rinehart shared some thoughts, ideas and reflection about the revised common lectionary’s appointed readings for this coming weekend, Pentecost 16A.

If you are in leadership in a congregation, then you probably already know that your website and social media is your front door for your congregation and faith community. They are also a place, when effectively engaged, where faith formation and fellowship can happen. With that in mind, AJ Fenlason offers good insight to “Use Your Website to Share the Stories of Your Church.” How do you share the stories of your faith community on your website and through your online presence?

Dr. Jolene Erlacher brilliantly shared, “3 Keys to Engaging Millennials on Your Ministry Team.” The keys are: take time for team relationships; encourage questions and honest dialogue; and give and request timely and consistent feedback. From your own experience, what keys might you add to the list?

In a somewhat related post about millennials and ministry, two PK’s wrote, “Please Stop Telling Us Why We’re Leaving the Church.” From their perspective: “We’re more educated than previous generations, but the church doesn’t continue to feed our minds. We came of age in a recession, but the church hasn’t changed its teachings about money. We’re still processing bad experiences with the church, and that’s going to take time. We have good ideas, and nobody cares. Everyone assumes we’re leaving the church because want to sin, but that’s simply not the case.” Please spend some time on this. For as much as I have written and reflected about the church and millennials, this is a hugely important post sharing a couple other people’s experiences.

Jan Edmiston reflected on “Long-Term Pastors & Age.” Give this a read and spend some time thinking about this.

ChurchPastor shared “10 Traits of Inwardly-Focused, Ineffective Churches.” I’m guessing that you could probably name many of these traits off the top of your head. Traits on the list include: worship wars; prolonged minutia meetings; facility focus; program driven; inwardly focused budget; inordinate demands for pastoral care; attitudes of entitlement; greater concern about change than the gospel; anger and hostility; and evangelistic apathy. What might you add to the list?

Cathy Lynn Grossman reflected and explained, “Many church choirs are dying. Here’s why.” What do you think?

Karl Vaters explained, “The Growing Disconnect Between Spiritual Hunger and Church Attendance.” There’s a lot of great stuff in this. I appreciate the recognition by Karl that “Doing matters more than attending.” With that in mind, he provides a few starter ideas: give people the chance to make a difference; make the communication two-way as often as possible; tell stories more than statistics; and make the connection for them.

Friends with Dr. Fretheim
Friends with Dr. Terry Fretheim

Randall Hardman explains, “Why ‘Left Behind’ Should Be… Left Behind.”

Have you ever considered an immersion as a way to “Love God with all your heart,” and be opened to new ways, ideas, and perspectives? If so, or if not, but you are interested in the potential check out these ideas and opportunities about immersions from LEAD.

Last night I had the great pleasure of listening to Dr. Walter Brueggemann pay tribute to Dr. Terry Fretheim and his wife Faith, in the first annual Terence E. and Faith L. Fretheim Lecture in Biblical Theology, entitled, “Why the Old Testament Must Not Go Away.”

Dave Barnhart reflected on “The 7 Billion Rule,” reflecting about population, people and also the Kingdom of God.

Check out the resources from last week’s Lutheran World Federation Conference on Diakonia, “Called to be transformed and transforming.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Anne Loehr rightfully cautions that, “An Excellent Business Plan Does Not Guarantee Success.”

Ron Edmondson wrote that, “Great Organizations Empower People to Think.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement.  I also appreciate the reflections that: great organizations empower employees the freedom to think for themselves; and when a person has the ability to alter the script, they are more likely to provide a positive experience for the customer.

Tom Paulson wrote and asked, “From Scotland to Cascadia, a new push to empower locals?” What do you think?

Could the world population swell to 11 billion people? Gabe Spitzer shared the news about this possibility.

Gabe Spitzer also shared about, “How the aid and development industry helped cause Africa’s Ebola outbreak.

Lolly Daskal explained, “What Nobody Tells You About Being an Entrepreneur.” The things that nobody tells you are: there’s a dark side; passion alone won’t cut it; it takes years of hard work to build a business; isolation is a fact of entrepreneurial life; to lead others, you must manage yourself; you probably won’t get rich; a crisis of confidence is probably in your future; don’t fake it, ever. This is an important list. From your experience, what might you add?

Julian Stodd reflected more on his blog about the social age, particularly about “Social Learning: Global Reach.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Lolly Daskal reflected on “How Perfectionism Can Hold You Back.” Lolly listed 8 ways that perfectionism might be preventing you from doing something or being most fully who you are capable of being: you don’t take risks; you insist on going by the book; you’re not developing; you can’t push the envelope; you aren’t open to new ideas; you cannot adapt to new situations; you’re thrown by unexpected demands; and you can’t adopt new strategies.

Lolly also shared “The Leaders We Remember Most.” According to Lolly, the leaders that are remembered are remembered because they: challenged us; acknowledged us; listened to us; trusted to us; made time for us; cared for us; supported us; gave us room to make mistakes; believed in us; and they honored us.

Here’s an interesting question for you from Robert Terson, “Which do you think is more important- Talent or Tenacity?

Dan Rockwell shared a number of great posts. Among them, he shared about “The Pros and Cons of Dreamers and Doers,” “The Secret to Expanding Influence by Wooing Hearts,” “12 Powerful Ways to Make People Feel Powerful,” and “13 Ways Leaders Make Dumb Decisions.”

My wife Allison and I with our friend, mentor, and my Thesis Adviser, Rev. Dr. Mary Sue Dreier
My wife Allison and I with our friend, mentor, and my Thesis Adviser, Rev. Dr. Mary Sue Dreier

In addition to these posts, Dan shared what he sees are “The Top 4 Qualities of Great Mentors.” The qualities in his mind are: humility; not helping; truth with compassion; and courageous candor. What qualities do you consider when you think about your great mentors?

Dan also shared, “The Top Ten Qualities of High Performance Teams.”

Speaking of teams, Dr. Ron Byrnes shared that “Every Team is Better and Worse Off Because You’re On It.” What do you think about that? Agree? Disagree?

Steve Keating writes that you need to “Let go to Lead” in “Massacre by Micromanaging.” There are many good nuggets in this. I especially appreciate the quote he frames this post with from the Horse Whisperer, “The more you use the reins, the less they’ll use their brains.”

Steve also shared, “The Time to Lead.” I love his conclusion in this, “The reality of leadership is this: if you don’t have time to invest in your people then you don’t have time to succeed as a leader.”

Frank Sonnenberg shared, “Get It Done!

Tanveer Naseer shared a guest post by James Kouzes and Barry Posner entitled, “Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership.” There are four attributes lifted up in this: honest; forward thinking; competent; and inspiring. Take some time to read this and reflect on it.

In a somewhat related post, Julian Stodd shared some thoughts about “Earning trust.

Jacquelyn Smith shared a list of “10 Things The Best Leaders Never Say.” The 10 things are: “I’m the boss”; “that’s not my fault”; “I’ll do it myself”; “I know that- I’ve thought of everything”; “failure is not an option”; “that’s not the way we do it here”; “I want results, not relationships”; “I don’t care if its unethical. If it’s not illegal do it”; “don’t bring me any bad news or surprises”; and “you’re lucky to have a job here.”

Skip Prichard writes, “To Speak Fearlessly, Take Yourself Out of the Equation.”


This was shared above under “Church and Ministry,” but it fits well here too. Jolene Erlacher shared, “3 Keys to Engaging Millennials on your Ministry Team.”  Also shared above and here as well, is this post, “Please Stop Telling Us Why We’re Leaving the Church.”

Heidi Oran reflected on “Learning How to Handle Failure.” In thinking about how to become better equipped to handle failure, she offers these tips: give yourself some space; don’t think positive; and break the striving cycle. From your own experience, what might you add?

Jesse Evans asked this past week, “What is up with my generation?

Jennifer Lien wrote about “Millennials and the Urgency to Succeed.”

Neighbor Love

Friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared and re-blogged a post, “In Memory of Jannie Swart: ‘I Really Believe this Stuff.'” This is a powerful read, one that I hope you will spend some time with.

When I first stumbled on this story, I couldn’t believe it. But, apparently, horribly and sadly its true. The NRA asserted that a Chicago priest is a terrorist for “protecting Chicago kids.” If you find you want to do something about this, feel free to sign the online petition.

Actress Emma Watson speaks before the United Nations. She is currently serving as the UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador.
Actress Emma Watson speaks before the United Nations. She is currently serving as the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador.

Actress Emma Watson gave one of the best and most important speeches before the United Nations in recent memory, as she spoke out against gender inequality.

Also related to gender, friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared a nice little video with reflection “Thinking about gender pronouns.”

I really try not to share what seems to be “political” news on my blog. So, forgive me for the title of this link, “Republicans Unanimously Block Equal Pay Bill.” That said, this is a neighbor love issue. The gap in pay difference by gender exists. Ask any economist, it would be nearly impossible to argue otherwise against the data. The only way to do so is to deny the statistics. If you do that, not only are you lying to yourself, you are lying to your constituents too.

Blogger and theologian Rachel Held Evans was back to blogging in a big way this past week. She shared some discussion centered around the first couple chapters of God and the Gay Christian. Rachel also wrote, “Canaanites, Reality Checks, and Letting the Bible Out of the Box.” Rachel also shared, “Changing the Culture that Enabled Mark Driscoll: 6 Ways Forward.” The ways forward include: educating Christians about bullying, abuse and misuse of power; value and preserve accountability; take misogyny and homophobia seriously; measure success by “Fruit of the Spirit” and not numbers; protect people over reputations; and treat pastors and church leaders as human beings- flawed, complex, and beloved by God.

In thinking about both the revised common lectionary and narrative lectionary appointed texts and themes, a number of friends, pastors and bloggers shared their sermons and ideas for this past weekend.

Based on the revised common lectionary: Friend and pastor Jamie Brieske shared her sermon based on Matthew 20, “Generosity: The last will be first.” Jamie writes that “Jesus tells stories to teach us about the kingdom of God.  And in this story we see that God’s generosity and grace go beyond the bounds of what we might expect.  It reaches everyone- even the lost and last.  This sort of grace does not make sense.  It is abundant and extravagant.  And when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we pray for this radical grace to overtake our world and our own lives.  We pray that God’s overflowing generosity will overflow into our lives so that we may share it with the world.”

In a related post, Rachel Held Evans shared, “A Generous Master.”

Based on the narrative lectionary: Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon based on Genesis 39, “Joseph & Doing the Right Thing.” There seems to have been a common point of good, right, and even perhaps generosity that was made possible in both the narrative and revised common lectionary readings. One line that Aaron wrote which I really loved, “It’s the right thing because it really isn’t about the 5 bucks.  Rather, it’s the right thing because in the act of giving, I’m saying “I see your need, and I care enough to do something about it.  You are worth that, because you’re a human being.”  And more than that, this act communicates that there is a God who sees them, sees their need, and meets it in an act of steadfast love.  Because in God’s eyes, we are all worth that much.”

Friend and PhD student Amanda Brobst -Renaud shared, “Prodigal Prophets and Faithful Foreigners.” This is such a rich reflection, especially about Jonah and his story, and I hope you read the whole thing. Her conclusion is amazing, as Amanda writes: “The grace of God offends our imaginations. The mercy of God extends beyond our capacity to forgive. God’s steadfast love holds us fast in our anger, in our bitterness, and in our hatred. It is big enough to cover a prodigal prophet, who insists that grace, love, and mercy be deserved, and saves him in spite of himself – in spite of his own undeserving. Fortunately, God’s idea of justice is far different from ours; it is the justice that declares the sinner has been made righteous, that proclaims the prodigal is beloved, that repeats – again and again – that it is never too late to find your way home.”

Otrazhenie wrote, “Look for strength in people, not weakness…” This is a good quick little reminder I think that nicely adds to a discussion about neighbor love.

Social Media & Blogging

Otrazhenie wrote, “Blogging for authenticity in the world of fake smiles.” As they asked, allow me to repeat: “What is so special for you in writing blogs? Or why do you keep reading?

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links in his “Really Recommended Posts.” Included in the posts is one about poverty and foreign aid. Check this out!


In thinking ahead to Advent and Christmas, Ashleigh Joyner and Rethink Church share some good starting place ideas for this year in “Checking, Decking and Dashing.”

Friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared thoughts about Generosity, Attitude and Actions.

David Radcliff reflected over at the COMPASS blog in “I Consume.” There are great reflections about consumption, choices and impacts in this. Spend some time and think critically about how the choices you make and the things and ways you consume may (or may not) impact others.


Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared a couple vocationally rich posts again this past week. She shared both some “Sunday Snippits” and some “Friday Favorites.”

In your daily life, if you’re like me you probably use and make checklists. Regarding this, RJ Grunewald wrote about “Death by Checklist.”

Friend and pastor Frank Johnson reflected on “‘Unconventional’ Prayer.” There are good reflections in here related to daily life, intentions, and other ideas about pausing, praying and being more intentional.

Alli Polin shared, “I don’t Journal, I Do This Instead.” Check this out. Perhaps it might be a helpful way for you to reflect and take stock of your daily life, thoughts, ideas and questions.

Friend and pastor Diane Roth shared some important reflection about “Conversations.” I can’t help but feel like her conclusion could be mine, and I am guessing your’s as well. Diane concludes, “Sometimes I think that my real job is having conversations: simple, small, ordinary conversations. It keeps me humble to think it.” I think that’s a huge vocational insight, but also about what it means to be in relationship with others. What do you think? Do you share similar ideas about conversations?

Friends Will and Katie continued sharing about their adventures and experiences in South Africa. This week they are back sharing, “…and then a bird pooped on my head.” You know with a title like that, you have to check out this post!

Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson


As it is now officially fall, now is the time that many people start thinking about “Oktoberfest.” If you find yourself in the USA, you might appreciate this list of 5 Awesome Oktoberfests, including especially the famous one in the small “Bavarian” village of Leavenworth.

My friend Tim Chalberg is back with an update on the Seattle Mariners as they enter the last week of the season, still hoping and fighting for a playoff spot.

Speaking of Seattle sports teams, Russell Wilson, the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks is Alaska Airlines’ “Chief Football Officer,” and because of that, if you are a fan traveling this season to watch the Seahawks play elsewhere in the country, you may well be in line for a discounted airfare.

Regarding the Seahawks, Jerry Brewer shared a nice post about the Seahawks-Broncos game and some stories about the man who announced the game for CBS, Jim Nantz.

If you are looking for a sight to see, or for some travel ideas in the Pacific Northwest, consider visiting Olympic National Park.


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. If you have particular types of articles and stories you would like to see included in future editions, please let me know. Also, if there are particular topics or questions you would like me to think about and wrestle with on the blog, please let me know that too. Until next time, thank you for reading and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Emma Watson at the United Nations; and Russell Wilson.

Why the Old Testament Must Not Go Away

Friends with Dr. Fretheim
From a while back, Allison and I and our friend Brigitte pictured with Dr. Fretheim

Tonight my wife Allison and I had the great pleasure to attend a lecture in the chapel at Luther Seminary. The lecture entitled, “Why the Old Testament Must Not Go Away” was given by the esteemed Dr. Walter Brueggemann, as the first annual Terence E. and Faith L. Fretheim Lecture in Biblical Theology. Dr. Fretheim was one of our absolute favorite professors that we were fortunate enough to learn from and with while at seminary. I was fortunate enough to take both my Pentateuch and Prophets classes from him.

The lecture was great, and I have included it here for you. As part of Brueggemann’s lecture, he considers the implications, importance and challenges related to “neighborliness,” very much a central theme and concern of this blog related to “neighbor love.”

Please enjoy the lecture, and thank you Luther Seminary for sharing it. If you are looking for some great quotes captured via Twitter from the speech, see what either Allison or Dr. Matt Skinner shared.

Positive Things- Day 5

My one and only! I am so grateful and thankful for her partnership, support, companionship, honesty, and most importantly, her love!

Today is the fifth day in a row of sharing gratitude and positive things, and thus the final day of five days sharing three positive experiences or things. Three positive things which I am grateful for today are:

1) Earlier today I shared the fifty second edition of “This Week’s Links.” That basically means that I have been sharing the links every week (but once) for a year now. When I started curating links as a regular offering on my blog I had no idea it would turn into such an enjoyed post by so many. They take some time to compile, but it’s all worth it knowing that I am helping others see and find interesting thoughts, questions and ideas. This definitely was a positive from today.

2) Another positive comes when thinking about a few friends today. First, I had a quick but wonderful conversation with a friend of mine who will be getting married next year. They asked me today to help out a bit in their wedding, and I am excited to be a part of that. I’m also excited for two other friends who will hopefully be welcoming a new member to their family in a few hours. Big, exciting and positive news all around here.

3) Finally, I have said I’m thankful for Allison before. But really, how could I not point to Allison as my last positive in this five-day series? This evening I had so much fun unwinding after a day of work by going outside and facing off against my one and only in a great tennis match. The tennis was tons of fun, and I am thankful for that. More broadly though, I am so grateful for my wife, partner, cheerleader, thinking partner and so much more.

I am glad that I decided to go through this exercise. It has helped me name some of the many things I am grateful for. What are you grateful for? What positives have you been experiencing? If you haven’t thought about this, I invite you now to spend the next five days listing three positives each day. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on my blog means that I get to share some links with all of you. These are links to things that I have found interesting and thought provoking over the past week. This week’s edition is special though. It’s the 52nd edition of the links. You see, I started sharing these on Tuesdays just about a year ago. So, Happy Birthday to the Links! Thanks to all of you who have come along for this journey and continue to read and be part of the conversation. Without you, I wouldn’t be so likely to curate this every week.

Happy Birthday to the Links!
Happy Birthday to the Links!

With all that said, this week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation and Miscellaneous. I entrust these links to you and hope you enjoy them!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

Bishop Mike Rinehart shared some insights and reflection about the revised common lectionary’s appointed readings for this coming weekend, Pentecost 15A.

Blogger Tony Jones shared some reflection and observations about local seminaries in Minnesota. I thought the post was good about opening the conversation about the changing face and needs of the seminary. The post though was perhaps a bit more controversial than expected. Friend and Ph.D. student Sara Wilhelm Garbers offered a helpful response to Tony’s post that furthered conversation. The conversation was so important and needed, that Tony offered a follow-up post which included a response from Luther Seminary Vice-President and friend Carrie Carroll. What do you think about the changing landscape of theological education and seminaries?

Prayers and support go out to the family and friends of Rev. Dr. Johannes G. J. Swart who passed away suddenly from a heart attack last week.

There’s been a fair amount of news lately about denominational resturcturing and potential restructuring. Regarding this and the role of congregations, Tom Ehrich writes that “Denominational Restructuring Won’t Work; Local Churches Must Innovate.” What do you think? Do you agree?

In a related post, Nurya Parish wrote and shared, “Two Steps toward Denominational Renewal- An Open Letter to TREC.”

In an interesting read, at least one study has found that the “Christian Right is Not Responsible for People Leaving Church,” according to Napp Nazworth. What do you think about these findings?

Many of my friends and talking partners have been asking questions related to church membership lately. That led me to asking some questions about church membership and its implications myself.

Tracy Keenan wrote, “Why Really, Really Pushing Your Teenager to Come to Church with You is a Good Thing.” What do you think?

WCCO, a local TV and news station in the Twin Cities of Minnesota picked up the story about Shobi’s Table Lutheran Church in “Twin Cities Church Holds Services in a Food Truck.” How is that for being a missional faith community?

In another hopeful and missional church type post, Nurya Parish shared, “They Re-Imagined Church.” Definitely check this out and the video included.

If you are free this evening, and find yourself in Chicago, check out friend Rev. Dr. John Nunes‘ lecture, “Re-Imagining our Witness: Speaking and Living with Difference.” The lecture is part of Concordia University’s 150th Anniversary Speaker Series.

Taylor Snodgrass and Heather Stevens pondered, “How Can Churches Engage 20-Somethings?” This is an important question that the church needs to wrestle with, pay attention to and take seriously. I think this is so important, that I am also sharing this post from “Church Marketing Sucks” below under Millennials as well because it fits equally well there.

Garrison Keillor
Garrison Keillor

Friend and pastor Joe Smith reflected about “Garrison Keillor, Lefse, Lexicons, and Hope for the Church.” Read this especially if you are a Lutheran. I definitely had a smile as I read what Joe wrote, especially his realization, “I have an ELCA Lutheran friend who does not know who Garrison Keillor is! I think there’s hope for this church yet.”

RJ Grunewald wrote, “We Don’t Need More Cool Churches.” He argues that instead, we need: churches that make disciples; churches that are committed to translation; and churches that are committed to being a family. What do you think?

Jan Edmiston asked a very interesting, and perhaps uncomfortable question, “Are 60-Something Pastors Irreparably Damaging our Congregations?” What do you think?

Friend and pastor Diane Roth openly and honestly reflected about worship, change, hope and possibilities in “New Under the Sun.” I really love the way she concludes this. She writes, “I can’t help feeling a little wistful, looking back to the dreams from when I first came here.  I suppose I am wistful because I am not one of the people sitting around the circle, although I’m not uninvolved in the dreaming.  I am a little wistful because I believe in this new vision, this new Tapestry, even though it was not my idea and I am not the one making it come to pass. There is nothing new under the sun, they say, but still, we begin again.  We can’t help it.  It is what God is calling us to do.  But even more than that:  it is what God is doing in us.”

Blogger and theologian Rachel Held Evans shared her fall speaking schedule in “Barefoot in Phoenix.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

As an economics major in college, this site, “Teaching Economics as if People Mattered” caught my eye thanks to friend professor Dr. Mary Hess sharing about it. To all my econ friends, professors and mentors out there, what do you think about this site and its potential resource offerings? Helpful? Not helpful? Interesting?

Mary also shared his post from August with a number of short videos about “Reaching Learners of All Abilities.”

In a post that I have found extremely helpful, Parker Palmer shared, “Five Simple Things to Reweave Our Civic Community.” Give this post some time and reflection.

Tom Murphy shared the news that “Humanitarian aid hit a record high in 2013, despite major funding shortfall.” This is interesting and hopeful news for the social sector.

Julian Stodd reflected on “The Illusion of Balance.” There are insights in here for organizations, leadership, etc.

Antonia Blumberg shared about Krista Tippett’sCivil Conversations Project.” This seems to remind me of the pilot I am helping lead for LEAD called, “From Where I Sit.” This is very much a need for society, and it transcends and includes all sectors of it.

If you are a fan of TED Talks and find yourself in Minnesota, then check out the news that “TEDx is Headed to the University of St. Thomas” in October.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Dan Rockwell shared a number of wonderful posts over the past week. He wrote “Get R.E.A.L.” symbolizing recognize, express, ask and listening. He also shared, “Everything You Need to Know about Time Management,” featuring a great quote from Peter Drucker who wrote, “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” Dan also shared, “12 Ways to End Fear and Inspire Boldness,” and “The Power of Freedom and Focus.”

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman shared, “9 Habits that Lead to Terrible Decisions.” The troublesome habits are: laziness; not anticipating unexpected events; indecisiveness; remaining locked in the past; having no strategic alignment; over-dependence; isolation; lack of technical depth; and failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. This is a very important list. What other habits might you add to it?

Lolly Daskal explained about “How to Make the Most of our Mistakes.” There are great insights in here as always.

Perhaps the most famous wall to be torn down is the Berlin Wall.
Perhaps the most famous wall to be torn down is the Berlin Wall.

Back in June, Lolly also wrote, “Tear Down the Walls so Trust Can Get In.” Check this out if you missed it back when it was written.

Anne Loehr shared, “Leadership Lessons from the Kitchen: How to Face Hard Muffins and Hard Situations.” Two particularly important lessons in this are: being an expert is not always helpful, and solve leadership problems by asking new questions.

Speaking of questions, Cranston Holden writes that “Questions Drive Behavior.”

Robert Half shared a guest post by Andrew Brushfield, “8 Signs You are Working Too Hard.” The signs include: you always feel tired; you constantly feel stressed; you are chained to your desk, phone, email and/or social media all day; you’re moody and snap at people easily; you care most about getting things done (not so much focus on quality); you’re skipping duties at home; you hardly see other family and friends; and strangers mention that you look rushed or stressed. Check out this post and spend some time with it.

Skip Prichard shared “3 Smartcuts to Accelerate Your Success,” which features an interview and conversation with Shane Snow, author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success. 

Steve Keating wrote and reminded that “You Represent More Than You Think.” Steve also wrote about “Fresh Leadership.” In this reflection about fresh leadership, Steve offers ideas about how to shift your thinking. The ideas include: look at your situation, issue or challenge from someone else’s point of view; take a gigantic step away from the situation and ask yourself some questions; ask for the opinion of someone very different than you; stay curious; and (potentially) wait.

Kate Nasser shared, “Team Members: 5 Ways to Communicate You are Empowered not Entitled.” The ways include: give more than you request; correct your mistakes and help others to mend theirs; offer sincere apologies; focus on everyone succeeding; and create your rewards by contributing your talent and effort versus demanding rewards now.

Karin Hurt wrote about “How to Help Managers Become More Strategic.” Managers can be helped in being more strategic if you: define it; provide opportunities for broad exposure; move them around; and think out loud.


Many of my most influential books gathered together
Many of my most influential books gathered together

Maddie Crum shared news that, “Millennials Are Actually More Likely to Read Books.” Is this news surprising or unsurprising? What do you think?

Molly Page introduced “Motivated Millennial Leader Hannah Becker.” According to Molly, Hannah is a “serial entrepreneur.” She shared three ideas to give you momentum: don’t believe every feeling you have; nobody but you will pay you what you are truly worth; and learning to fail is the key to entrepreneurial success. Spend some time with this.

In a post shared above as well, Taylor Snodgrass and Heather Stevens asked and reflected about, “How Can Churches Engage 20-Somethings?” What do you think? There are important implications for millennials and the church in this post.

Chelsea Krost shared a list of the “Top 5 Ways to Mitigate Career Risks for Millennials” by Leigh Fletcher. The 5 ways include: loyalty is a false security; innovate at all times; management is dying; create and convey quantifiable value; and have industry vision and stay relevant. What do you think of this list and advice?

Neighbor Love

Dan Jones shared about, “Bearing Prophetic Witness in Ferguson.” Dan concluded powerfully, “The continuing rebellion in Ferguson, for better or worse, will act as a laboratory for modern organizing strategies. It is my hope that the presence of Rev. Barber and Rev. Sekou will add a much needed historical perspective to the urgency on display by Hands Up United and other emergent organizations led by the young people of Ferguson. My fear is that direct nonviolent action will fail to end the litany of people of color executed without regard to the protections embedded in the Constitution of the United States.” Give the whole piece a read.

Nikki Massie wrote that, “These summer campers did more than just sing and swim.”

In a very important post and article in The Lutheran, Peter Marty wrote about “The sadness of suicide: Our concern should be to help people retrieve hope, meaning for their lives.” Give this a read and spend some time reflecting on this.

Timothy Brown wrote that, “Victoria Osteen Told the Truth, and Half the Christian World Got Mad.” What do you think? Timothy wrapped up this reflection, writing: “And if that’s not the point of the Gospel, which I do not think it is, then instead of getting mad and making fun of Osteen (either of them), we should look at ourselves, our message, and realize that we’re largely sucking at getting it across effectively in many pockets of Christianity. See, I think Victoria Osteen said something really true about Christianity today, and I think that our vehement reactions against her words are not just because we disagree with her assessment (which I truly do), but also because we know that she’s just, on TV, pointed out that the emperor is naked in many places. Which means we have more work to do. Osteen is not where the Gospel is going out of orbit.  Osteen is a product of a Gospel that is largely out of orbit, and has been for a long time.”

Bunch of friends gathered together (including J.W. Wartick)
Bunch of friends gathered together (including J.W. Wartick)

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared, “An Apologist’s Insights on ‘God’s Not Dead.'”

On September 11th, Jan Edmiston pondered, “What Do We Pray For Today?

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon from this past weekend, “Call & Blessing.” The sermon was grounded in the focus text of the second week of the Narrative Lectionary for this year, Genesis 12:1-9. Aaron concluded his sermon by writing that, “Blessing is about an enduring relationship with a God who takes us through the peaks and valleys of life; who stays faithful to us when we’re faithful and even more so when we’re not. It’s about a God who led Abraham and his family 350 miles on foot through the desert of present-day northern Iraq, over the mountains of Jordan, and to Israel. It’s about a God who remained faithful to Abraham even when he passed his wife Sarah off as his sister to save his own skin, and a God who remained faithful to the promise of a son, even when Sarah laughed in her lack of faith and trust at God for such a notion. And such a notion of blessing…..maybe we can go after all…..we can be faithful, we can be church, we can tell others about this God, and we can be a blessing to others….even when we have no freakin’ clue what that looks like or how it’s going to work out. Amen.”

Jesse Evans asked, “What kind of Christian am I?” There’s some good introspection in this.

Friend and pastor Diane Roth shared, “Signs from God.”

Social Media & Blogging

Here’s some food for thought. Nurya Parish shared this updated Google Trend, that “‘God’ is soon to be more popular than ‘Church.'” What do you think about this? Quite honestly, I am surprised that “Church” is searched for or about online more than God. Anyway, I do think this is actually a good trend, like Nurya writes about.

Back in July, Alex Manthei shared, “5 Methods and 15 Tools to Find Your Audience and Build a Community.”

Also in July, Neil Patel shared, “The 7 Key Ingredients of a Powerful Twitter Bio.”

Chelsea Krost shared a post by Brian Hart, “Social Media is a Game of Chess; Not Checkers.” What do you think of that idea?

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links with his “Really Recommended Posts.”

If you have ever wondered about “Social Media Narcissism,” check out this video about “The Upside of Social Media Narcissism.”


Here’s a stewardship related question for you, “Are Your Offerings Boring?” Mark Brooks asked this question last week and shared reflection about how you can make offering in your faith community interesting and engaging. What do you think?

Friend, stewardship blogger and “Classy Frugalist” Grace Duddy is in the home stretch leading up to her wedding. Because of this, this will probably be her last post for the next month. Congratulations Grace, we’re so excited for you and Tyler!

Speaking of Grace, she will be among four major presenters at the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s Leadership Seminar in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in early December. If you are looking for a good reason to go south during the first part of winter, this is a great reason. The speakers and seminar are sure to be wonderful. Check this out!


John Saddington wrote and reflected about “Vocation: Where Joy Meets Need.”

Helping Allison set her Fantasy Football roster for the weekend (yes, Allison has a fantasy football team too!)
Helping Allison set her Fantasy Football roster for the weekend (yes, Allison has a fantasy football team too!)

My wife Allison asked quite profoundly, “Do you see it?” I was so impressed with this post, that I had to share it on my own blog as a summary post. Of the great insights and brilliance in this, two main insights about vocation that stand out to me are that “no two people vocationally discern the same way” and “vocational discernment is not for the weak.” If you haven’t read this yet, please check it out!

RJ Grunewald shared an honest vocational and self-care post in “Fantasy Football is Good for My Soul.” Like RJ, I love fantasy football too. It’s refreshing and a lot of fun to be able to be in community with friends from across the country in this way during football season.

Friend and pastor Frank Johnson asked and reflected, “Individual purpose? Meet the Body of Christ,” in his sermon for this past weekend. This is full of great theological reflection. I especially loved when he reflected, “when I hear somebody tell me that their life is without purpose—whether it’s a young person in the throes of depression or an old-person who believes their time on earth should be spent—I nod; I understand the feeling; and I don’t try to correct them with vague platitudes about how God has foreseen this struggle or intentionally brought them into the depths of despair. Instead, I usually don’t say much, but I wonder… I wonder if purpose breaks into despair in the most desperate and unexpected of places… I wonder if God doesn’t change the world more often through the addict, the hopeless, and the completely lost than with the person who has it all together… I wonder if it takes reaching the end of the line for God to get through our thick heads.”

Meta Herrick Carlson reflected profoundly in “weaning.”

Friends Katie and Will continued their adventures in South Africa this past week. They also continued to reflect and blog about their experiences. Will shared about their experiences at a prayer service in “Prayer and Preaching.” Katie added her input in “We all have monkey problems” and “A new day.” Katie added some more observations about the weather as well. I have to admit that I laughed at her insight and observation that, “I have come to the conclusion that I am responsible for the fun and day-to-day posts and Will is responsible for the more serious, GPF related posts. I’m not sure how that happened, but I’m pretty sure I got the better end of the deal.” I think Katie’s right on all accounts. Thanks for continuing to share about your adventures you two!

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared three vocationally rich posts and reflections this past week. First she shared some “Tuesday Tea Time.” She also added some “Friday Favorites” and “Sunday Snippits.”


Have you ever wondered about “How to get upgraded to First Class like a boss“? If so, Kate Sioban Mulligan has you covered.

Somewhat of an interesting brouhaha seems to have emerged between the country of Norway and the Disney company. Those that are familiar with Walt Disney World, and specifically Epcot, might know that Norway has long been one of the countries featured in the World Showcase. The Norway space has long featured a ride that helped depict some about Norway’s history and culture, called “Maelstrom.” But, given the recent overwhelming success of “Frozen,” Disney is looking for ways to capitalize on it. So, out with “Maelstrom” and in with a ride based on “Frozen.” This isn’t necessarily sitting well, because a fictitious place featured in a cartoon movie is replacing an actual teaching type ride. I know the ride wasn’t the most entertaining, but I always appreciated it when visiting Disney World as someone of Norwegian heritage. I don’t fault Disney for this, but I kind of wish they could have just added the Frozen attractions without removing Maelstrom.

Friend, blogger, Mariners fan fanatic and math teacher Tim Chalberg wrote, “Enjoy the Moment” as the Seattle Mariners find themselves squarely in the playoff chase with two weeks to go. Here’s hoping they can find a way into the playoffs. With their pitching, anything is possible, and if they were to make the playoffs, I would like their chances with Felix Hernandez.

Finally, to close out the links, here’s a story about how my alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) is seeking lyrics and lyrical input for its new “Alma Mater” composed by PLU professor Greg Youtz. So, if you’re a PLU alum, what lyrics would you add?


That concludes this birthday edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if there are particular topics or articles you would like included, please let me know. Also, please let me know if you have particular ideas, questions or topics you would like me to wrestle with on the blog. Until next time, thanks for reading and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Garrison Keillor; and Berlin Wall.