October 29th: Saints, Smiles and Journeys

Each Wednesday morning the congregation I am currently serving on staff of, has a Morning Prayer or “Matins” service. I regularly lead the music for that service. This week I also provided the short reflection and devotion. What follows in this post is much of what I said in that reflection, which followed a reading of 2 Timothy 4:6-8

It’s probably a bit unusual to share a passage from one of the letters attributed to Timothy. To be honest, I am not even a big fan of either 1st Timothy or 2nd Timothy. Some might think I am named after those letters. No, I’m actually named after the Timothy that assisted Paul, who according to almost every scholar was not actually the same person who wrote 1st and 2nd Timothy. All that said, this particular little passage has always been one of my favorites. It strikes me as the sort of purpose that any saint who has run the race of life would want to be able to affirm. So, with All Saints being this weekend, it seemed like a good time to share this passage.

My Grandpas (Grandpa T. in front, Grandpa S. in back)
My Grandpas (Grandpa T. in front, Grandpa S. in back)

What I love about this passage is that it affirms the idea that life is a journey, a race, a fight, whatever metaphor you want. No race is easy, and I imagine no fight is either. Life, likewise, is not always easy. The beauty for me of All Saints is that we remember that we are Children of God, inheritors of the promise, and simultaneously saint and sinner. We’re made saints not because of anything we do, but because of what God has done and continues to do.

That’s the core of grace and the promise. That’s also the hope that frees us to live fully and abundantly, and to serve with joy and love.

What’s on my mind though as I think about this passage, is my Grandpa T. Today would have been his 93rd birthday. Some of you still might have called him a “young pup” if he were here today. He was the youngest of eight kids, and his older sister Sophie continues to live near the family’s homestead in Maxbass, North Dakota.

This passage though from 2nd Timothy was one of the passages read at his funeral seven years ago. It just seemed right. My grandpa served in World War II, and after the war he was a dean at the Dakota Lutheran School in Minot, and then became a Lutheran pastor. Like some of you perhaps he went to Concordia College. Like Allison and I, and Pr. Fred and Pr. Diane, but long before all of us, he went to Luther Seminary. He pastored for over fifty years in North Dakota and Washington State. In part because of his and Grandma’s example, one of my uncles is currently a pastor in Appleton, Wisconsin; my mom has long been an Associate in Ministry; and other family have followed their callings and vocations.

This isn’t why I am thinking about Grandpa today though. I’m thinking about him, because he was my grandpa. Not because he was a pastor, mentor, or teacher, though he was for many, including myself, baptizing me on Easter morning. I am thinking about Grandpa because not only did he teach me about life and death in word and action, he taught me it in reality too.

When I was about four years old, my brother and I had our first experience with death that I remember.   Our much loved bird Tony had passed away. Grandpa showed us how to say good bye. We put together a nice little box, we had a little funeral and even though the rain pounded, we had shelter under a tree as we shared a few words about that lovely bird. Grandpa reminded us about the joys and gifts that Tony gave, and that Tony now was singing a new song with a whole big choir.

Family gathered for Grandpa's funeral over Thanksgiving Weekend (2007)
Family gathered for Grandpa’s funeral over Thanksgiving Weekend (2007)

Fast forward about fifteen years. Grandpa’s battle with cancer had taken a bad turn. He knew his time was coming to a close, and managed to hang on until all his family- kids and grandkids were able to gather one more time with him. What was amazing to me, in his last days he was visited by so many family, friends and other pastors. No pastor that I saw dared give him any advice or devotions though he surely would have appreciated it. No, they prayed with him, but even the bishop came and sat next to him and I honestly think Grandpa was the one ministering to him. For Grandpa, the promise and hope for the life to come, he saw that as reality. It was probably fitting then that he passed away with his family nearby late on Thanksgiving eve night. Yes, Thanksgiving that year was hard, but at the same time it was beautiful to all be together and to give thanks.

So with this All Saints upcoming, I myself hope for the same peace that Grandpa had, but more importantly to be able to live as much of an abundant and life-giving life to others as he lived.

earlydating2There’s one more piece about today that I would like to mention. Not only was this the day, October 29th, the day my Grandfather was born. It was also the day, about a year after Grandpa passed away that I started dating someone very special. You see, life has a funny way of happening and God has a funny way of putting things into perspective. Six years ago, Allison and I “officially started dating”  (whatever that means), during our senior year of college. The journey since has been one of great adventure and joy, and sometimes anxiousness and uncertainty. But one thing it has not been, is boring or lacking.

So, what thoughts come to you this week around All Saints? Who do you remember?  Who do you give thanks for, living still as well as those who have claimed the promise? How do you see yourself living and loving others because of the love others have shown to you?

I trust you all have people you remember and give thanks for. I wonder what stories you might tell though about how these special other people have shaped you into being who you are and who you are yet becoming. I wonder how the smiles I see on all of your faces were helped to be shaped by those whom you have met and loved you on your journeys. What do you think?


This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share some of what I have read and found interesting over the course of the past week with all of you. In doing so, 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 and I entrust them to you now.

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

If you are leading or planning worship or preaching this coming weekend for All Saints, these reflections and resources from Bishop Michael Rinehart might prove very helpful.

Bishop Rinehart also shared a nice reflection and tribute to pastor, church leader and innovator Keith Magnuson who passed away last week.

If you are looking for resources to help plan Advent this year, then you’re in luck. LEAD has put together a six week cycle of resources for Advent through Epiphany with contemplative prayer liturgies by Lynn Willis. Check these out as well as the beautiful original art by friend Vonda Drees.

Scholar Elizabeth Drescher asks and writes, “Did Social Media Just Save General Seminary? The rewiring of American Christianity continues.”

Zach Hunt reflected on “Heresy, Orthodoxy, and the Space In-Between.”  I think Zach is really on to something here that’s important. Check out this passage and then read the whole piece. Zach writes, “There are a seemingly infinite number of issues and disagreements about what we “must believe” that needlessly lead to accusations of heresy. Which is why if there is to be any hope of a cease-fire in the heresy wars, it won’t come about until we learn to make space for that disagreement and stop trying to hold others to our own tradition’s version of orthodoxy. That is to say, peace won’t come about until we find the humility to admit that maybe, just maybe our beliefs are just that. Our beliefs.”

Cathy Lynn Grossman shares news that, “Secularism Grows as more U.S. Christians turn ‘Churchless.'”

This past weekend, many Protestant congregations remembered the Reformation. With this in mind, I shared a post the other day “Forming and Reforming,” wondering about ways that I see and have seen the church form and reform this past years. In what ways have you seen this?

In a somewhat similar spirit, Elizabeth Rawlings shared “Longing for reformation.”

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton with Allison and I  (photo taken by Thomas Siburg)
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton with Allison and I
(photo taken by Thomas Siburg)

Friend Rev. Writer Sue Lang writes that “The Reformation rocks on.” She writes, “The Reformation rocks on and we are part of it. On Reformation Day we aren’t just celebrating the past but the fact that God is at work renewing the church throughout all history — past, present and future. Our God is a reforming god. We need merely to reach out our hands and welcome God’s gifts of renewal and regeneration. They are gifts of the Spirit ever present among us.”

Sue also reflected on “Discerning Leadership in the 21st Century.”

This Saturday, November 1st, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will be speaking at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). If you are in the Pacific Northwest, I highly encourage you to go and hear her talk about, “Who is Leading Us, and Where are We Going?”

Bishop Eaton also shared this reflection, “Spruce up our spiritual house: disciplines help us glorify God while serving in ways that are abundant, clear.”

An article in the November edition of The Lutheran was released last week by Charles Austin entitled, “Get set for clergy retirement wave” and needless to say it didn’t sit well among all church and ministry leaders, and it was particularly found not helpful by millennials and younger church leaders. Though I don’t feel offended by this story, I found it unhelpful at best and totally lacking in any sense of trying to bring a multitude of perspectives to the topic.

In response to this article, friend and soon-to-be pastor Emmy Kegler and fellow seminarian Eric Worringer collaborated on and wrote, “The Under-35 Theses.” It’s a brilliant and important response. I greatly appreciate their conclusion, where they write, “Let’s create spaces of interaction and value the voices of those under 35 in a way that is not patronizing, nor is naïve, but values their outlook on ministry and innovation. And let’s not just cast off retiring clergy, but value their ministry and wisdom in real and tangible ways. Instead of the dangerous nostalgia that can be found lurking across our church, we should be focused on the hard work of faithfulness to the Gospel regardless of age or experience, and be attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit in this era of the church, and this formulation of the Lutheran tribe.” If you are at all interested in denominations and engaging multiple generations, read both the original article and this response as well.

If you are free November 13-15, and find yourself in Minnesota, consider checking out this “ELCA Networks for Mission Event.”

Pastor and blogger Nadia Bolz-Weber released her “2015 Speaking Schedule.” Check it out and see if she will be visiting and speaking near you.

Blogger and pastor Nate Pyle shared great food for thought in this blog post by Jim Herrington, “The Church in Exile: One Pastor’s Reflection from Houston.” I am particularly moved when Jim writes, “I am hopeful. This younger generation gets what I am saying. And they also get that we will contribute to creating the kind of city that we all want to live in – one where everyone is safe and has enough – by being the kinds of people who love God and who love their neighbor as they want to be loved. None of us wants to be dominated. So why would we try to impose our view on others. None of us wants to be disrespected, so why would we disrespect those who see the world differently. None of us wants to be marginalized, so why would we take actions that marginalize others. In the short term, I’m saddened by the way so much of the Church shows up in culture – for sure I’ve been disappointed in the way much of the Church has responded to the HERO process. But, in the long-term I believe that God is doing something new and that there is an emerging generation of leaders who see this new thing clearly. Imperfectly but persistently I’m trying to living fully into each moment in order to align my life with the new thing God is doing.” Read the whole piece and see what you think.

Here’s a thought provoking question for you from the people at “Church Leaders,” “What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable.” Check out this video and see what you think.

John Pavlovitz writes, “The Church, The Church, and The Church (and Why It’s Totally OK to Criticize All Three of ‘Em).”

Friend, pastor and blogger Joe Smith shared some great reflections in “Taking Things Personally in Ministry.”  Joe writes and asks, “While I have learned the value of these approaches to ministry, there is merit in caring. This is a world where too many people deal with too little caring. Maybe taking more things personally will allow me to be a better pastor in this congregation and community. I don’t know. I’m still learning. What do you think?”

Allison and I with one of our favorite mentors, Dr. Terri Elton
Allison and I with one of our favorite mentors, Dr. Terri Elton

Brian Dodd shares a post that may well not be news to many people on staff in faith communities or in ministry leadership, “Frightening Church Realities: Many Do Not Pay Staff Properly.”

Friend, adviser and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared a helpful and thought-provoking interview in “Learning from the past… the importance of the local congregation.”

Blogger and pastor Nurya Parish shares good thoughts in “Sustaining Life on Earth and in Church.” There’s good food for thought here about the church and life in it, as well as neighbor love and creation care. There’s also good thoughts on faith formation and sustainability. Check it out.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Rohit Bhargava shared, “5 Unexpected Storytelling Lessons from Beth Comstock.” The lessons are: develop “story archaeologists”; be a participant, not a patron; make the invisible visible; hire people who are “story culture” fits; and create wearable meaning.

Tom Paulson reflected about “Twenty years of making microfinance, or whatever you want to call it, work.”

Anne Loehr asked and explained, “Managing Freelance Workers? How to Help Freelancers Meet Your Project’s Goals and Make Deadlines.” Included in this are a few great tips from Anne: ask two simple questions at the beginning and end of each project discussion with freelance workers; take a training approach; and approach misunderstanding with compassion.

Michelle shared great thoughts for all telecommuters and work from home types in “How I Make Working From Home Work For Me.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Steve Keating reflected on “The Sacrifice of Authentic Leadership.”  Steve also asked, “Are you an Inspirational Leader?

Larry Putterman shares “7 Ways Outside Directors Benefit Private and Family Businesses.” Benefits potentially are: unbiased advice; different perspectives than insiders; objective; new skills; credibility; new resources and contacts; and they are on your side.

Eric McNulty writes, “Ending the Battle between Leadership and Management.” Among the great thoughts in this piece is this one, where Eric writes, “Today’s executives ask for loyalty and engagement, but too few are willing to give enough of themselves and take the personal risks necessary to garner the commitment that good King Harry inspired. Too few are ready to undertake the demands of leadership and management.
Are you?”

Nichola Batley explained how he believes “How good managers can become great leaders.”

In a post that would go in the category of bad approaches, or “what not to do,” Brian Dodd shares “20 Practices of Leaders Who Destroy Churches, Teams and Businesses.” The bad practices of “leaders who destroy these organizations” include: miss opportunities; are petty; are selfish; force others to work around them; blame others (often publicly); are insecure; also destroy people’s lives; cannot be led; lack self-awareness; cause good people to leave the organization; lack accountability; refuse to change; do not allow others to thrive; have major blindspots; limit who is willing to join your team; are their own worst enemies; are left with a poor team; are eventually asked to leave; and destroy cultures.

Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker

Bruce Rosenstein shared, “5 Ways to Infuse Meaning in Your Second Act: what you can learn from Peter Drucker, Bonnie Raitt and others.” The five strategies inspired by Peter Drucker are: combine your talents and passions; break new ground; develop a multifaceted personal brand; help ease the pain of others; and never stop learning.

Tanveer Naseer shared “4 Keys to Successful Crisis Management in Today’s Wired World.” The keys are: keep everyone- not just affected parties- informed of what’s going on; apologize and openly take responsibility for the situation; tell them exactly what you’re going to do to fix things; and share lessons learned and what will be done going forward.

In case you missed it, I shared some thoughts last week about “Empowerment.”

Dan Rockwell shared a number of great posts this past week. He reflected about “How to Energize Your Organization,” with four areas to focus on: control; progress; connectedness and purpose. Dan shared, “4 Ways to Deal with what really drives leaders crazy” and “10 Ways to Reject Bad Failure and Embrace Good.”

Dan also wrote, “Simple Question- Profound Shift” and also explained, “How to Develop the People You Really Want.” Be sure and check out all of these great posts and food for thought!

Jon Mertz asked, “What Can a Trust Creed Deliver?” Jon’s trust creed includes: trust myself; be transparent in circumstances and information; build relationships, no matter what; and never leave an issue unresolved. What might your trust creed include?


Meghan Biro writes, “Listen Up, Leaders: We Are All Millennials.” Meghan includes the following points as food for thought and reflection: millennials and non-millennials are more alike than not; employee engagement; embracing the winds of change; and generational communication.

Heidi Oran explained “The Curse of the Multi-Passionate Millennial.” There’s great reflection about the complexity of millennial passions and vocational insights as well. Included in this are three steps for a passionate life from Heidi: create a list of your passions; under each passion, list off at least 2 lessons; and now connect the leadership dots.

Lindsey Pollak reflected on “How to Handle ‘You’re Young Enough to be My Kid.'” For this predicament, Lindsey outlines three potential options as courses of action: ignore it; deflect it; and confront it.

In a good lesson and reminder for all people who have to try and balance their time, not just millennials, Loren Catotal explains “How to Work, Study, and Volunteer at the Same Time.”

Jan Edmiston shared a post that could fit both under Church and Ministry or Millennials. Jan reflected on “Gen Y Pastors Starting New Churches.” What do you think about her ideas and questions?

Neighbor Love

Ron Edmondson shared, “21 Reasons God May Allow More than You Can Bear.”

Pastor and blogger Nadia Bolz-Weber shared a very moving and powerful “Sermon on Suicide, Caesar, and Beautiful Newborns.” Here’s a great articulation of the good news, “And you carry within you the light of God, the Imago Dei – the image of the one who created you and here’s the thing: that and only that is the true source of your value and identity. And no matter the sin and harm done to you by others or done to you by yourself, or that you have degraded your self by doing to others, none of it can get to that part of you which is holy. Because some things are so holy that they simply cannot be desecrated. So I believe with all my being that those who leave this world, even by their own hand, are held in the same pure love of God from which they were born. If they could not feel the truth of God’s love in life, they are surrounded by it in the life everlasting.”

Marysville Pilchuck High School
Marysville Pilchuck High School

Last Friday there was yet another day of gun violence in public schools. This time it was a bit too close for home for me, as Marysville Pilchuck High School is in Western Washington State. Everytown for Gun Safety shared a very sobering list of “School Shootings in America Since Sandy Hook.” Eric Liu summed up my thoughts exactly, “Gun violence isn’t somebody else’s problem.” Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes also reflected “On Guns.” It’s far past time to do something about gun violence in this country.

In one story that was picked up nationally, Oak Harbor High School’s football team, Marysville Pilchuck’s rival, offered to accept second place to give Marysville Pilchuck the title instead of having to play the game they were scheduled to play last Friday at a later date. This is not only an example of good sportsmanship and solidarity, its real neighbor love in action. Kudos Oak Harbor, you have my deepest respect.

Changing gears, in a very interesting read Andrea Drusch explains “Why Washington Power elite are flocking to seminary school.

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for the past weekend grounded in 1 Kings 3:1-28, in “Reformation & Divine Love.”

Focusing on the same passage, friend and pastor Frank Johnson shared his sermon from the past weekend, “Wisdom vs. knowledge, or why Confirmation doesn’t work.” I know with a title to a post like that, that you’ll definitely want to check this out.

I found this thought provoking TED talk from a couple years ago by Bryan Stevenson, “We need to talk about an injustice.”

Rachel Held Evans also mentions Bryan Stevenson in her latest post, “‘Forgive Us’: Christians, Injustice & Corporate Confession.” Check out this post and the book the post is about.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Francis Rocca shared the news last week that Pope FrancisCalls for abolishing death penalty and life imprisonment.” This call obviously has neighbor love and justice implications. What do you think of Pope Francis’ call?

Speaking of Pope Francis, Robert McElroy writes, “Market Assumptions: Pope Francis’ challenge to income inequality.”

Pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth explained, “Why I Bless Same Gender Marriages… and you should too.”  This is so well explained, I hope you read the whole reflection. One piece for me that stands out is where Clint writes, “I fully understand that some others in Christian congregations feel they are hurt by the openness of church leaders or churches to begin blessing families previously denied such blessings. It’s hard to acknowledge our complicity in sin and oppression. It’s hard to change. But the pain somebody feels because their beliefs about what others should receive as a blessing is of a different order of magnitude, and is of a completely different sort, from the pain people legitimately experience when they are discriminated against on the basis of their age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

Jonathan Merritt writes and explains, “Leading evangelical ethicist David Gushee is now pro-LGBT. Here’s why it matters.”

Jacob Lupfer writes, “At Idaho wedding chapel, a hollow victory for religious freedom.”

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick writes and asks, “Exegetical Fallacies- Who determines when it’s a fallacy?

In thinking about the Reformation, Martin Luther and the love of the neighbor, Bishop Michael Rinehart wrote about “Where Luther Got it Wrong: The Peasant’s Revolt,” on the LEAD blog.

Friend and pastor Diane Roth shared, “Stuck on David.” There’s good reflection about the commandments and their role in this, as well as the sheer amount of the biblical narrative that is focused on King David.

Social Media & Blogging

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

If you are participating in or hosting a non-profit event or conference soon, you might want to check out these great ideas about how to report from and about them through social media.

Kathi Kruse shared great social media insights in “What Sort of Content Should I Be Pushing on Social Media?

If you need a laugh about some ridiculous blog post requests, then see “Reader Beware” from friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes.


Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes also shared a “Paragraph to Ponder” about investing and stock market timing. It’s definitely a paragraph worth some thought and reflection.

DC shared “5 Practical Ways to Improve Your Finances.” The ways offered include: set up automatic contributions to a retirement account; track your income and spending; find ways to cut expenses; set up automatic contributions to a savings account; and evaluate your income.

Michelle shared some “Money Advice I Would Tell My Younger Self.” Some of what Michelle would tell her younger self is: stop buying clothes; you don’t need a car that is worth more than your yearly income; you need a real budget; you need to relax; invest now; and negotiate your salary.

Stefanie O\’Connell reflected in “Relative Materialism: Redefining ‘Need.'”


Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared some vocationally rich posts as always this past week. First, she shared some “Friday Favorites,” featuring photos of a beautiful Friday out and about in Michigan. Second, Julia offered some great “Sunday Snippits,”

Friend and seminarian Sue Leibnitz reflected on “A Question of Joy.”


Allison and I at the Grand Canyon
Allison and I at Grand Canyon National Park

If you are like me and love to travel, you might also like to visit National Parks, Memorials, and other places under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. If you also like a good deal, like free admission, then plan ahead for “2015’s National Park Free Admission Days.”

Also, if you love a great cup of hot chocolate, apparently here are “27 of the Greatest Places in the World to Get Hot Chocolate.”


That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if there are topics or questions you would like me to think and wrestle with on the blog please let me know. Also, if there are types of articles you would like to see included in these links, please let me know that too. Until next time, thanks for reading the blog and blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Peter Drucker; Marysville Pilchuck High School; and Pope Francis.

Forming and Reforming

A depiction of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church Door on October 31, 1517
A depiction of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Church Door on October 31, 1517 – the day of the year that Protestants now remember the Reformation on annually.

This weekend many Christians in Protestant faith communities remember or acknowledge the Reformation. This is particularly true among most Lutherans. In remembering this, many sanctuaries may be dressed in red this weekend and Psalm 46 might be used in worship as well.

In the spirit of Reformation and with all this in mind, I want to add six observations this year for ways the church I believe is reforming and being formed, and perhaps needs to.

1) Acknowledge Collaboration and Partnership and Strive for It

Your congregation is not an island. Despite what it may seem, if you are part of a faith community you have partners in that faith beyond your group or immediate community. For the church this might mean synods and denominations, as well as the larger catholic (with a small “c”) or universal church. These many faith communities can do much more good in the world through partnership and collaboration with combined resources and perspectives.

Congregations and faith communities can do a better job of acknowledging existing partnerships in their own faith communities. For example, Lutheran congregations could do so much more to tell the story of the good work of so many Lutheran NGOs and non-profits like Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Mosaic, and Lutheran Services in America. Chances are, the majority of your faith community have no idea these organizations exist and about all the work they do.

2) The future of the church does not rest with large mega-churches

Despite what the media and pop-culture might lead you to believe, the future of the church does not rest with large mega churches. Why do I think this is true? Simply put, because such large communities aren’t sustainable. They may be sustainable economically, but too often they are built around a charismatic leader. When that leader is no longer there, the faith community implodes or at least goes through a very tumultuous time of change. The larger mega-churches that have been sustainable have one thing in common, an emphasis on building smaller communities up within and as part of the larger church in order to build relationships.

3) Focus on depth, not just breadth

For too long we as the church and society have focused on numbers, or breadth. How many people were in church today? What was attendance like? Why don’t we ask instead, how many people were equipped and empowered to share their stories and perspectives of how they see God active in the world and their lives? The church grows when it builds connection, intention and an ability in people to see God at work and be able to articulate that in meaningful ways for themselves and others.

4) Name the values and perspectives and then live them out authentically and transparently

What shapes your community? Is it a particular understanding of some Biblical passage(s) or theological framework? Whatever it is, name it and reflect and point to how these understandings shape and guide the work and ministry of your faith community. If there is a disconnect between the values and what your faith community is doing, this means that it is time for deep reflection and community discernment. Invite your faith community in, and be transparent in the process.

5) Days of hierarchical leadership in the church are numbered

We have already seen this with the rise of millennials, and as Jean Lipman-Blumen wrote about in the move from “Stage 2 to Stage 3” leaders. The church is catching up. Just look to the way leaders in congregations who have been on pedistals like Mark Driscoll or Catholic bishops who participated or turned a blind eye towards clergy and sexual abuse. Hierarchy is falling away as the laity is empowered. This is exactly what the church should be striving for if part of its work is to spread the gospel and create disciples. By creating disciples, leadership is broadened and diffused. (Even though Luther might have been mixed on the idea of the Priesthood of All Believers, I am a fan of it.)

6) Above all- grace and love

Whatever your faith community is about, remember that grace and love abound and transcend. Err on the side of both grace and love when contemplating change. But most importantly, make sure that grace and love guide, reflect and inform all that you do and all that you are as a faith community and leaders within it and out of it. The church has always been about this, but today is as good as any to reclaim and reaffirm itself in this.

I suppose I could have styled this in 95 points in honor of the 95 Theses of Martin Luther.  That would have taken far too long to write,  though and be far too long for a blog post. So, that’s probably enough for now.

What ways do you see the church forming and reforming? What comes to mind for you this year regarding Reformation?

Image Credit: Luther and 95 Theses


empowermentI heard an interesting podcast recently about millennials and the workforce. One of the topics central to the discussion was the idea of empowerment. Millennials desire empowerment. I would argue though that empowerment is not a desire limited to millennials. If this is true, what might this mean?

First, let’s define empowerment. What is it?

Empowerment is the act or feeling of giving power, authority, responsibility, permission and/or authorization or to enable.

This definition has important implications for leadership. In the one sense it might seem that empowerment is delegation. But it is much more than this. Delegation involves giving someone tasks. Empowerment has more to do with providing opportunities for growth and permission to run with a vision or idea. Not only is there permission, there is the authority necessary to be able to do things and make things happen.

For innovative organizations or groups, empowerment can mean having or granting “the permission to fail.” This means the permission to run with something. If it fails, it was a learning opportunity. If it succeeds and thrives, then not only does the leader who was entrusted with the authority feel successful, its a win for the larger organization because a new idea has proven to have possibilities.

If one were to create a Wordle sharing thoughts about what one thinks of regarding collaboration, this is what might result. (Courtesy of Mission Network News)
If one were to create a Wordle sharing thoughts about what comes to mind regarding collaboration, this is what might result. (Courtesy of Mission Network News)

Wrapped up with empowerment is a desire to collaborate. This might be where empowerment seems to be most often linked with millennials as a generation in particular. Millennials want to work with others and be part of something bigger than themselves. Because of this they desire feedback from other colleagues and leaders regarding their progress.

Some members of other generations view this as “hand holding.” The reality is, its more a desire for mentoring, learning, collaboration and co-creation. Relationships matter to everyone. For millennials, relationships and connections are more readily available than for previous generations with social media.

For example, I was asked recently why do I share a bunch of links every Tuesday. It is a fair question. I do so because I like to learn and I like to share that learning. What good is learning if it just stays in your own head? The other reason is that I like to collaborate. If I can help someone else tackle a big question or problem then I feel like I am helping make a positive difference or impact in the world.

Returning to the overall idea of empowerment, I think Peter Drucker saw this coming before anyone else. He foresaw the move in society and the economy from manual labor to the rise of what he called the “knowledge worker.” Drucker wrote that:

druckerknowledgeworker“knowledge workers are not programmed by the machine or by the weather. They largely are in control of their own tasks and must be in control of their own tasks. For they, and only they, own and control the most expensive of the means of production- their education- and their most important tool- their knowledge… The only true competitive advantage for a company or a nation will increasingly be the productivity of its knowledge workers.” – Peter Drucker, Management: Revised Edition(New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2008), page 209.

For knowledge workers to be able to function most fully and efficiently, they need to be equipped with the knowledge and empowered to use it. They need to be empowered to learn from their knowledge and grow and lead with and because of it. Millennials understand this, as do other generations. What they sense at a deeper level I believe is the second nature way by which they collaborate in the midst of constantly evolving technology and social media.

What do you see in your organizations and contexts? How do you empower your team members to lead and collaborate? How are you empowered by other leaders? Do you see millennials as knowledge workers or at least potentially as knowledge workers like Drucker described?

If you found this post interesting you might appreciate these posts about Millennials and Leadership and Millennials and Age


Image Credits: Empowerment sign; Collaboration Wordle; and Drucker and Knowledge Worker.


This Week’s Links

Internet1Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share links to things that I have found interesting or thought provoking over the past week with all of you. I must have done more than my usual amount of reading judging by the length of this post. There’s a lot of good stuff this week, even if I say so myself. To help you navigate the links, 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!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

News broke this past week that pastor Mark Driscoll had resigned from Mars Hill Church. In thinking about this story, Matthew Halverson reflected about “How Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll Wooed Unchurched Seattle.”

There were many big stories over the past week. In addition to Mark Driscoll’s resignation, a story out of Houston nearly spread like wildfire. Sarah Pulliam Bailey shared the story that “Houston Subpoenas Pastors’ Sermons on Gay Rights Ordinance Case.” As might be expected this story got picked up quickly with thoughts and responses all across the board. The most common sort of response though usually involved some conception of “Separation of Church and State.”

A few of the responses that I found particularly helpful were from Nate Pyle and Bishop Mike Rinehart. Nate Pyle wrote that, “We Need a Less Anxious Response to Houston Subpoenas.” I completely agree with that sentiment. I also think Nate is on to something as he wonders, “do we, the church, know how to exist in our culture when we do not have political and cultural power?” What do you think?  Bishop Mike Rinehart  also shared his thoughts and perspectives on the “Subpoenaed Sermons.” I like his pondering, when he writes, “If your church’s goal is to proclaim the Good News of the gospel to all nations, then let them have the sermons, let them be published on the web, on your blog, podcast them, put them in the radio, televise them, go tell it on the mountain. Shouldn’t we want lawyers and city officials pouring over our sermons?” Would you agree with that?

Bishop Rinehart also shared some reflections and thoughts about the readings appointed for the coming weekend, Reformation Day or Pentecost 20A.

Dave Barnhart shared “5 Lessons from Church Planting for Every Pastor.” The lessons are: advertise; you need a preaching toolbox; get out of the office; share ministry; and play.

David Yonke shared the story about Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and a recent talk she gave in Perrysburg, Ohio in “ELCA leader urges better networking in Perrysburg talk.”

Sarah Pulliam Bailey shared the news that, “General Theological Seminary’s board to negotiate with terminated faculty.”

Are you in the Twin Cities of Minnesota? Are you interested in Practice Discipleship? If so, check out the information about an upcoming training on November 6th, and be sure to register.

David Lose shared some great reflections about the church in “An Emboldening Thought.” There is a real richness in the discussion that Lose gives to contemplating questions like “What” and “Why?” In many ways, he is pondering the questions that I have been pondering on this blog since its beginning about a year and a half ago. One particular passage that strikes me, is where he writes, “It’s not that the way ‘we have always done things’ (which of course isn’t the way we’ve always done it but just what we have experienced) is wrong. It’s that the group of people who seem best served by those patterns seems only to be shrinking, while the group of people who are not touched by our current practices seems only to be growing. Similarly, the question before us isn’t really about the what – a more conversational style of preaching, different hymns, a less-scripted and more participatory form of worship, different ways of establishing Christian community, or whatever. The question before us is why – because there are people we love who are not here – our children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors – who we hope will experience God’s life-changing love. And so we are willing to take risks and experiment — and you can’t experiment without experiencing some failure — in order to share Christ’s love with others.” Give this post some deep thought and reflection.

Martin Luther and the 95 Theses
Martin Luther and the 95 Theses

In a somewhat related post, Jan Edmiston reflected on “The Price of Failing to Innovate.”

If you are interested in seeing some of what is coming out of the Vatican, check this out from “Synod 14- Eleventh General Assembly.”

Russel D. Moore wrote that, “The Church needs more Tattoos.” I wonder what Nadia Bolz-Weber might think about that?

This coming weekend, many Lutheran and Protestant congregations and faith communities will be remembering and celebrating Reformation. Mike Poteet wonders, “Reformation Sunday: A Day to Celebrate?” Reflection is given to ideas like: by grace through faith; the 95 Theses and beyond; and the notion that the church is always forming and reforming. (Clint Schnekloth receives a nice shout-out in this as well.)

Speaking of Clint Schnekloth, he shared “95 Theses for the 21st Century Church.” Give this list a read and see what you think. What might you add?

Julie B. Sevig shared a story in The Lutheran about Trinity Lutheran in Cooperstown, North Dakota in “Trinity Growers: Ready for harvest.”

Jonathan Merritt shared, “Congregants flee traditional churches, but this former pastor rejoices,” featuring an interview with Kelly Bean.

PBS shared the story of Rev. Margaret Kelly and the ministry that she is a part of in St. Paul, Minnesota in “Food Truck Pastor.”

Frank Schaeffer writes and asks, “The ‘Bible Belt’ is the Porn Belt: Surprised?” What, if any thing do you make of this? Correlation or bizarre coincidence?

Aaron Loy wrote and shared, “When the Church Has Let You Down: A few steps for those who have been hurt by church leaders.” A few potential steps forward that are offered and reflected on, are: resist the urge to become cynical; remember Jesus still loves His church; re-enter at your own pace; and expect to be disappointed. What do you think?

To close out this section with a little humor, how many of you have thought (at least a few times) that your faith communities and congregations’ stories might make for a good sitcom or comedy? Well, Amy Poehler may just be about to help make that happen.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

One of my alma-maters, Claremont Graduate University, shared some great tips and resources related to “Resumes, Cover Letters, and Networking Tools.” I particularly appreciate their suggested action words to replace some common resume words with words that might help make your resume stand out.

Seattle on the horizon, at least when on a ferry ride on the Puget Sound
Seattle on the horizon, at least when on a ferry ride on the Puget Sound

Julian Stodd offered good pause and reflection for your leadership and organization in “Building a culture of sharing.” I particularly like where he writes and asks, “Reflect on the culture in your own organisation: does it welcome sharing, is it permissive of sharing? Or do you still use knowledge as a mechanism of control?”

In an interesting story with implications for many societal sectors, Sara Solovitch shared and asked, “Scrunched in Seattle- Is this hipster hovel the future of the American City?” What do you think? Could you live comfortably and content in a 192-square foot space?

I honestly try not to share too many overtly political stories, but I did find this article, “In Defense of Obama” intriguing from both a political and economic perspective. Paul Krugman lays out his thoughts in a way that definitely has made me think and reflect. What comes to mind for you? What implications are there for the different sectors of society nationally and internationally?

Anne Loehr helpfully explains, “How to Create a Positive Collaborative Environment for Freelance and Full-time Employees.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Robyn Benincasa wrote about, “6 Leadership Styles, and When You Should Use Them.” Robyn takes insights from Daniel Goleman and elaborates on: the pace-setting leader; the authoritative leader; the affilitative leader; the coaching leader; the coercive leader; and the democratic leader.

Lolly Daskal shared what she sees are “The 4 Biggest Myths About Leadership.” The myths have to do with: entrepreneurial leadership; management as leadership; trailblazer as leadership; and position as leadership. Lolly writes that “true leadership” is about: influence; it cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned; and it can never be mandated, only earned. What do you think?

Avery Augustine shared, “5 Things Managers Should Never Say Aloud.” They are: “my boss has no idea what she’s doing”; “did you hear about…”; “that client drives me crazy!”; “he really messed this up”; and “I hate my job.”

Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker

If you follow this blog regularly, you know by now that I am a Peter Drucker fan. Here’s one more reason why I am one. Rick Wartzman explained, “What Peter Drucker Knew About 2020.” Drucker really coined the phrase, “knowledge worker,” and could see long before it happened that the economy would largely be driven by a “knowledge society.” In reflecting on this, Wartzman shared “six aspects of running an enterprise that should now be front-and-center”: figure out what information is needed; actively prune what is past its prime; embrace employee autonomy; build true learning organizations; provide a much stronger sense of purpose; and be more mindful of those left behind. What I hear in this not only has implications for leadership and management, I think Drucker may have (without knowing the term) sensed what millennials would come to value too (especially the corporate purpose and autonomy pieces). What do you think?

Brian Dodd shared a number of interesting leadership posts over the past week. First he shared a list of “The Top 10 Leadership Posts” he read over the previous week. He also shared, “9 Common Mistakes When Leading Top Leaders, Outliers or Superstars.” He shared some helpful food for thought in “15 Practices of Leaders Who Build Great Churches or Organizations,” as well as “13 Practices of Leaders Who Experience Success.” Check out all these lists for good resources to think about and chew on.

Steve Keating asked, “Are You a Success?

Steve also reflected about “The Approachable Leader.” In this post, Steve provides good ideas for overcoming the “bubble” that many leaders can sometimes find themselves in, inadvertently.

Tanveer Naseer shared a guest post by Robert Sher, “Leadership Infrastructure- A Prerequisite to Mightiness.”

Rene Lacerte shared, “7 Acts of Generosity that help Leaders Grow Great Businesses.” The acts of generosity are: be a role-model; be generous with yourself; pull together team building activities around giving; center the program on gratitude; stay away from religious or political charities at a company level; provide a forum for employees to raise awareness about causes they care about; and make sure no one ever feels pressured.

Dan Rockwell explained “How to Prevent Unnecessary Conflict.”

Jon Mertz shared “5 Ways to Celebrate Boss Day Every Day.” The ways to celebrate are: celebrate what you read; celebrate the time dedicated to self-reflection; celebrate the time to laugh and have fun; celebrate the relationships of those who make you better; and celebrate what you have learned and what you have shared. I love the question at the end of this piece especially. Jon asks, “How do you celebrate and practice being your own boss?”


Thin Difference shared a guest post by Ali Jafri on “The Challenges of 21st Century Leadership.” What do you think of these perspectives?

Also, over at Thin Difference, they are seeking some input from readers in a “Reader Survey.” Check out this post from Molly Page to hear more and participate in the short survey. Your input will help them as they continue to provide great leadership and millennial resources and perspectives.

I stumbled onto this great post from July about “Leading Gen Y.” Elena Iacono offers these great tips for effectively leading millennials: stay present; be accessible; consistently coach; reward and recognize; hold people accountable; prioritize feedback; keep it cool; and be trusting. What other advice might you add?

I also heard a great podcast this week on “How millennials fit into today’s workplace.”

The Post-it-Note Wall of Change
Can you really just call Millennials “those darn kids” when they name, list, and then go out and do something about so many things that are listed on this “Post-it-Note Wall of Change” to try and make a positive difference in the world?

In a related post of sorts, Anna Olson writes, “Those darn kids…leading millennials.”

Amy Tobin shared, “Millennial Think: Millennial Expectations of Customer Service.”

Back in May, Amy Heath wrote and Chelsea Krost shared that, “Millennial Investments Have More Potential in Real Estate.” Do you agree? What might your own experiences and stories bring to this idea?

Jordan Elton writes, “Hey Millennials- your Kickstarter page isn’t going to end AIDS.” This is a good reminder about depth, service and intentionality. It’s also an especially good reminder to vote and be a part of the process and engaged. What do you think?

Chris Martin shared, “5 Reasons Why There Are No Millennials in Your Church.” The reasons he notes are: there are no millennials in your leadership; you reject the idea of contextualization; “Sunday School” literally feels like school on Sundays; your political preferences are clearer than your gospel proclamations; and your idea of a “social media presence” is finally getting that Myspace page finished. This is a great list. What might you add?

Jonathan Merritt shared an interview and conversation with Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Mark Comer entitled, “Let’s talk about sex, baby (er, millennial Christians).” Check this out. It’s rather interesting and not just because it has a three letter word which automatically gets more views.

The Millennial shared, “Three things I’d tell the Synod on the Family about Marriage.”

Neighbor Love

Building off of the previous link, comes this story about how Pope Francis said, “God is Not Afraid of New Things.”

Shifting gears a bit, here’s a couple stories related to the current situation related to the spread of Ebola. First, Tom Murphy shared, “Some common sense on Ebola… from Fox News?” Next, friend and pastor Erik Gronberg shared some honest reflections related to Ebola and the way communication has been handled (or not) related to it, writing, “Yes, I am afraid.”

Tom Murphy also shared news that “Global hunger rates are down, but 850 million still suffer” and the not so surprising news that “The world’s richest 1% are getting wealthier.”

Here’s a story that likely will just make you want to shake your head. An attorney who was currently on maternity leave was not granted a delayed hearing because of that leave, so, Kate Brumback shares the story of an “Attorney Denied Hearing Delay Appears with Baby.” The judge in this case, I think it’s safe to say, is out of touch with what it means to be a basic relational human being. Maybe that’s harsh, but the description in this story suggests otherwise.

Friend and blogger Jenna Reyna shared a very moving and profound reflection, “Cherub Choir,” remembering and acknowledging pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. Definitely give this a read!

Two years ago pastor and blogger Nadia Bolz-Weber reflected on “The Spiritual Practice of Saying ‘Yes!‘” So often we are reminded about the importance of saying “no” for self care reasons, that it’s important to remember about he importance of saying “yes” too.

Also, Nadia shared this video that was put together by members of her faith community about what it means to be community and in response to a conference’s focus on “culture clash.” If you haven’t seen this video, definitely give it four minutes and fifteen seconds of your time, brain, soul and heart.

RJ Grunewald wrote about “Being a Christina in a Pluralistic World.”

Rev. Dr. Monica A. Coleman
Rev. Dr. Monica A. Coleman

Tomorrow, Wednesday October 22nd, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) will be hosting the 2014 David and Marilyn Knutson Lecture. Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman will be the speaker. In preparation for this speech, “You Can Have it All: Theorizing Transreligious Spirituality from the Field of Black Studies,” she participated in a “Q & A” session with Taylor Lunka. Kathleen Cooper shared more about this speech tomorrow in an article, “Scholar at the intersection of faith and justice.”

Friend and intern pastor Chris Michaelis shared his sermon for this past week, “Here’s To You!” that was grounded in 2 Samuel 12:1-9.

The ability to vote isn’t just a civic right, its also I believe a neighbor love concern. Because of this, a story like “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pens Scathing Dissent on Texas Voter ID Law,” catches my attention. If you are a citizen of the United States, make sure you vote on Tuesday November 4th, or earlier if you vote by absentee mail.

Friend and pastor Frank Johnson reflected about the Bible and a few billboards he has passed by on the highway recently in, “Inspired? Yes. Absolute and final… maybe not.” Frank also shared his sermon from this past weekend grounded in 2 Samuel 12, “Becoming Goliath: Underdogs and the career arc of King David.”

Katie Sprutta Elliott shared some thoughts about “The gift of listening.”

Friend and PhD student Amanda Brobst-Renaud shared, “Left-Behinds, Exodus and Idols.” One excerpt that stands out in particular in this, is where Amanda writes, “It is this God who refuses to allow the idols we create in our anxiety, sin, and doubt to tell the truth about who we are. Rather than being abandoned in your sin and your doubt (or perhaps because of it), as the ceaseless idols remind you, you are shielded by the divine hand, and beckoned by a glimpse of God’s glory. This God refuses to leave you behind because you are inscribed in God’s very being, even as God’s image is inscribed upon you.”

Blogger and theologian Rachel Held Evans writes, “I would fail Abraham’s test (and I bet you would too).” Would you?

Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared his sermon from this past weekend, based on Psalm 51:1-12, “Songs of Lament.” One particular passage which struck me is where Aaron writes, “Faith is a cry to God in our sorrow, our mourning, our grief. It’s a plea for God to do what we cannot do for ourselves. Faith is asking God to wash us; to make us whole. We ask God to restore and renew our spirits, to bring joy and hope and gladness into our lives again. And in the midst of tragedy, that kind of faith – a shaken faith – is perhaps enough, because it is still faith just the same. And for God, that’s more than enough.”

John Pavlovitz reflected on “The Lost Christian Art of Giving a Damn.” The title alone seems to obviously suggest neighbor love implications and questions.

Friend and soon-to-be pastor, Erika Grace Benson Buller shared wonderful personal and vocational reflections in “While You’re Waiting: Itinerant Preacher.” If your congregation or faith community is looking for a pastor, look no further than Erika!

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston shared some thoughts about “The Nathan Effect.”

David deFreese wrote, “Offering hospitality and respect,” offering good stories about the work of the Nebraska Synod and Mosaic. Shout out to Carrie Gubsch for sharing the story with me.

Social Media & Blogging

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared some links and thoughts in recognition of “Blog action day!

If you are like me, you are always on the look-out for great thinkers and ideas to track and follow to learn from. Along these lines, and to be a part of the larger conversation, Rich Birch shared, “12 Hashtags Church Leaders Should Follow Today.” Those of you who are active with social media would probably guess many of these, but here’s the list: #chsocm, #kidmin, #stumin, #pastor, #leadchange, #churchmedia, #churchtech, #innovation, #mktg, #tutorial, #poverty, and #CharityTuesday.

If you are looking for some help for your own blogging, this template and checklist might be a nice resource.

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

Friend, professor and mentor Dr. Terri Elton also shared her version of “Links” as well. Check both J.W.’s and Terri’s links out for more good stuff.

Kathi Kruse shared some very helpful social media insights in, “Your Blog, Social Media and SEO: Mash Up…For the Win.”


Over on the LEAD blog, I shared “Why and How: Things to Remember for Funding Ministry.” This may be a particularly helpful post if you are involved in stewardship in your faith community or with a local non-profit.

For whatever reason, money like a few other things is still not something everyone feels comfortable talking about with others. In order to improve money management, and to be an authentic person in relationships with others, this really has to change. To this end, Stefanie O\’Connell shared, “The Sex vs Money Taboo.”

With Halloween a little over a week away, this post from John Rampton is very timely. He writes about, “How the Sharing Economy is Changing your Halloween Costume Search.”

Have you ever wondered if you live in a generous or not-so-generous state? Now you can find out thanks to these links and reports.

A component of stewardship is learning and money management. With that in mind, here’s a post by Trey Tompkins, “Thanks for not buying popcorn from my son.”

The Broke Millennial shared “Why You Should Still Save When in Debt.”

Similarly, Michelle shares thoughts about “Why You Should Invest and Save for Retirement.”

Michelle also shared, “6 Ways Being Cheap Can Cost You Money.” The ways are: buying cheap clothes; skipping insurance; shopping on “deal” websites; driving a far distance to save pennies on gas; thinking DIY will always save you money; and neglecting routine maintenance.

DC shared and asked, “Bitcoin- Will it Be Widely Accepted?” What do you think?

Bishop Jim Hazelwood writes, “I’m doing something crazy.” Check this out. It’s a wonderful idea and pitch to build up stewardship within faith communities and the larger church. Are you up for going along with this idea?

Matt DeBall provided the most recent guest post on the COMPASS blog as part of COMPASS’ series reflecting on ownership, renting and mortgages. Matt reflects on “Becoming a Home Owner.” Particularly helpful in this are four suggestions for when thinking about mortgages.

Imagine for a second if I tried to tell my wife she shouldn't make as much as me? Yeah, I can't imagine doing that. It's dumb and wrong. To think otherwise, well...
Allison sitting in a swing, giving a smile and sharing some time in conversation with friends and family.

My amazing wife and wonderful blogger in her own right, Allison shared her own personal stewardship reflections in “Why I Give.” I love this! One particular passage that stands out is where she rights, “I give because it was never mine. I can stare all I want at that black or red line in our monthly budget, but that won’t do anything. I give because I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who I don’t always understand, but one that I love because God’s relentless love is one that I can place my hope in. Giving our money is a fraction of how we give ourselves to our people and to God. I respond to God’s dreams and love for me by giving my questions, my curiosities, my money, intellect, passions and energy to God’s people – which is partly a church, but mostly, the world, because so far I haven’t found a place where God’s presence does not exist.” Go and read the whole piece.

Friend and pastor Diane Roth also tackled the question of “Why I Give.” Diane writes, “I know that God wants me to give, because it all belongs to God anyway, and God is just letting me take care of God’s ‘stuff’ for awhile. But I give to my church because we are all related, we are related to one another by baptism, which is thicker than blood, although it is hard to remember that.  I give to my church because the cross that is traced on my forehead is traced on every forehead; we belong to each other, and that is wonderful, and it is impossible, and it is essential.  We have been given this impossible mission, this story to share, this story of God who created and who mends our hearts, and wants us to join in mending the world.  And it is impossible to do it alone. That’s why I give.  I give because these are my children, and they are my grandmothers, and they are my aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers. And I am sure of just one thing:  when we give, we are running into each other’s arms.  And we are running into God’s arms, too.”


Friend and pastor Aaron Fuller shared some thoughts about “What Birthdays Teach Us.”

TK shared some reflections about “Problems People Living Alone Will Understand.”

Friend and blogger Lisa Lehnherr Hansen shared some great reflection in “Story listening.”

Dan Rockwell shared a vocational type related post, “7 Payments to Passion.” The payments Dan sees and elaborates on are: failure; investment; restriction; action; approval; control and trust.

Friends Katie and Will continued to document their adventures and journey in South Africa with a couple more posts. Will shared the “Top 10 from the weekend” and “Seven Observations: Equip 2014.”

I also shared some vocational reflections related to worship and an “ah-ha” type experience I had last week in “Unexpected Grounding.”

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared some good vocational reflections as always in her “Sunday Snippits: good, bad & awesome.”

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some interesting observations in “The Parable of the Clueless Professor.”

Friend and college roommate Tyler Scott shared a wonderful must-read post, “Perfect imperfections: a love song for a baby nephew,” specifically for Tyler’s nephew Elliot. Please do read this. My guess is that you’ll love it and be able to relate somehow.


How well do you know Charlie Brown? Todd Van Luling shared, “5 Things You Didn’t Know about Charlie Brown.” Check this out. You might well be a little surprised like I was to learn some of these things.

In very sad news, famous composer and Twin Cities resident, Stephen Paulus passed away.

Let’s end on a positive and exciting note. The residence hall that I called home while attending Pacific Lutheran University has reopened, and they shared this wonderful short video, “Stuen Hall Reopens.”


That will conclude this week’s edition. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if there are things you would like included in this post each week, let me know. Also, if there are particular topics or questions you would like me to wrestle with and reflect on, please let me know that too. Until next time, blessings on your week and thanks so much for reading! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; Martin Luther & 95 Theses; Peter Drucker; and Monica A. Coleman.


Why and How: Things to Remember for Funding Ministry

Offering Plate- a common vehicle through which people historically have "given"
Offering Plate- a common vehicle through which people historically have “given”

Earlier this week, I was asked to share some thoughts about funding ministry over on the LEAD blog. I wanted to share a sampling with you here to invite you into the conversation. Here’s some of what I wrote:

Ministry is not free. If you are a leader in a congregation or faith community, you already know this. Chances are that many participants or members of your faith community actually do not. There may have been a time when this was not the case, but the reality today is that the average person in your faith community does not know what ministry costs.

This is an opportunity. It provides you as leader and the whole community an opportunity to learn, have a deep conversation about ministry, the work, the costs, and why you do it.

In thinking about this opportunity, there are two questions which are crucial to reflect on and speak to: Why and How?

Why do you give? How do you see your giving as a way of financing the work of the church in the world?

If you are intrigued, and want to read more about “why” and “how,” please go and read Why and How: Things to Remember for Funding Ministry.

Image Credit: Offering plate

Unexpected Grounding

Some days I have “ah-ha” moments. You know, that realization or point of epiphany where suddenly you stop for a second and everything just seems to make sense. One such moment happened yesterday morning.

Among the different hats I am currently wearing, I am serving in a local congregation as their interim worship and music director. When I began this role, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I looked at the needs, expectations and hopes for my work in this and knew it was ambitious. I was also a little worried that Wednesdays might be become a bit ridiculous. You see, on Wednesday my schedule in this congregation has me there from about 7:30am to 8:30pm. That’s realistically a 13-hour day, though I do make sure to get out of the office and usually the church building for lunch.

My fears about Wednesdays haven’t really materialized. Sure, I’m definitely tired after a long day. But so far each and every long Wednesday has been rewarding. This is where the “ah-ha” comes. I finally realized why I have been energized each Wednesday.

“Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.”

Morning Prayer/Matins  The arrangement found in "Evangelical Lutheran Worship," (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), pages 298-308.
Morning Prayer/Matins
The arrangement found in “Evangelical Lutheran Worship,” (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), pages 298-308.

Every Wednesday morning since beginning in this role, my day at work has started with “Morning Prayer” or “Matins.” It’s about a half hour time of prayer and worship with singing, chanting, reading(s), and a short reflection. I was a little skeptical at first that I would have to be at church for such a long day to play piano for that service, through leading the rehearsals of a couple different choirs at the end of the day. Hear the “I” in that sentence. I was pretty inward focused. Since starting though, I honestly think my day and stance about somethings have been transformed.

I don’t generally write or reflect about spiritual practices. But Wednesday Morning Matins is definitely a spiritual practice. My long day starts out with a faithful group of people in praise. It’s inspiring really to be part of such a community. Granted, the vast majority of those participating are retired, but not all the people. The ringleader of the group is definitely its’ spry 102-year old matriarch. She is always in charge of the treats and fellowship afterwards.

Let me stop there, the Matins service has provided me a chance to be grounded in ways I never expected. It weekly reminds me deeply about who I am, why I am doing what I am doing, and that what I am doing is part of my vocations as well as my relationship with God. That reminder hit me yesterday. I was trying to slow down the congregation on a song, and they would have none of it. They wanted to keep the tempo up and sing with their whole hearts and souls. I relented. In that moment, I knew what they knew. They were “singing to the Lord with shouts for joy to the rock of their salvation.” So was I.

Some days are a surprise. Here I thought that Matins and 13-hour days would be crazy long. Instead, they are both gifts. Weekly they remind me. Weekly they ground me. And weekly they begin in worship and those long days end in fun rehearsals with great musicians and people.

In the midst of the work that I have been called to do in this congregation, to help the congregation become a body closer together, I have found a way that grounds me and reminds me of the deeper reasons for that work. Thanks be to God.

Have you had any surprise experiences grounding you and reminding you why you do what you do? Do you have any faith, meditation, or spiritual practices that you participate in regularly that provide meaning and connection?