Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review of Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley



Fields of God
by Andy Stanley
ISBN 0-8423-8540-1
Tyndale
Reviewed by Clint Walker

One of the highlights of my ministry this year is the development of our stewardship team. Each member of the team has been working their way through a book, and then sharing some of their insights with the rest of the team.

I know Andy Stanley to be a great communicator. I have read several of his books on leadership and vision. Nevertheless, as I read through Fields of Gold I was impressed by the book. Stanley makes a clear case for giving to one's church, as well as being generous as a principle.

In Fields of Gold, Stanley puts a strong emphasis on sowing and reaping, but he does not do this in a creepy, televangelist-like way. He tells the story of a farmer in the middle of the dust bowl who is considering whether to put seed in the ground. Fear that he will lose everything grips him. What will he do?

From that point Stanley launches into a case for being generous with what the Lord has given us. He addresses many of the fears that govern our lives when it comes to money. He also gives helpful step by step instructions in coming up with a giving plan and living our lives with generosity.

For a pastor like me, there are several sermon illustrations in this book, as well as few outlines for teaching on stewardship in a message or a Sunday School class.

I urge anyone who is interested in understanding or communicating about the importance of stewardship and generosity to pick up this fine book.


Monday, September 08, 2014

Book Review of Revangelical by Lance Ford

Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We're Meant to Be
by Lance Ford
ISBN 978-1-4143-9015-4
Tyndale Momentum
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The contemporary evangelical movement has a unique history and place in American culture and in Christian circles globally. Evangelicalism was born as a middle way between the classically liberal theology of the early 20th century and grass-roots theological movement that responded to it called fundamentalism.

Today evangelicalism is some sort of an identity crisis. At times, the movement has seemed to be captive to political parties, and economic interests. Some folks that should be more accurately labeled as fundamentalist have tried to narrow the understanding of what they thing an evangelical should be-This is especially true in regard to issues such as the creation-evolution debate and women in leadership. At the same time, there are a number of folks that have evangelical sensibilities that have more progressive views on theology and ethics than what is traditionally acceptable in that movement.

Stepping into all of this is Lance Ford, an evangelical Christian who has concerns about the evangelical movement. Ford has less concerns with the hot button issues that the evangelical movement often discusses. Instead, Ford's concerns are more with the heart of evangelicalism. Ford puts it this way, "for many evangelicals, the gospel has been shriveled and shrunken to the point that we have made the great Good News small" (p. 18). His solution is to re-evangelize the evangelical church so that it can be "evangelized all over again by the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven--the gospel that Jesus preached and practiced" (p. 14).

From this point on, Ford really runs a diagnostic study on evangelicalism. Getting under the hood of evangelicalism, Revangelical examines the movement from a number angles. The book urges evangelicals to rediscover their faith as good news for themselves and the world. It both challenges evangelicals to let go of some unhealthy attitudes and habits, and to recommit to having some healthy values that the movement has lost in recent decades. Ford does a wonderful job of making his case with passion and clarity.

I have been in conversation with Lance about his book briefly. I am sympathetic with much of what he has to say. I too grew up in fundamental and evangelical circles. I have great affinity for the movement's commitment to the authority of Scripture and the emphasis on essential value of having personal ownership of one's faith. Unlike Lance and other evangelical leaders, I don't see the need to cling to and salvage the label "evangelical". And, although I would think the term evangelical would be an accurate description of my faith commitments, I have no emotional or personal need to connect to or salvage the "evangelical" movement. I have my work cut out for me in simply seeking to be a Christ-follower.

Having said that, I think this book will be helpful for folks that are committed to being Bible-believing Christians, and yet feel there is something amiss with American Christianity. These folks will sense in Lance that there are others that feel they way they do, and they will in turn be inspired to be a different voice in evangelical circles. A voice that offers something positive and life-changing instead of simply angry and critical. A voice that offers life change instead of political agendas. Those kinds of voices are always welcome, in my opinion.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bibliography of Stewardship Resources for Churches on my Shelf




My current church is the first church I have had a significant role in that had a Stewardship campaign, and that thought about having a stewardship plan. Most of the churches I have served have had some sort of Stewardship Team, but that team basically managed money. It did not seek to set a vision, have a plan, or address issues.

When we were first discussing such matters as church, I was asked about what training I had about such matters. What were the trade magazines saying? What conferences have I went to on such matters. Well, I had attended a few workshops on best practices for collection and disbursement of funds, and had a few discussions, and some mentoring on the issue. I knew of no workshops on the issue, and knew of no big programs that get old, declining mainline churches quick infusions of cash. So I was stumped and frustrated. So I began to learn about stewardship.

Since that point, I have done a little study, and learned more about church finance. One thing that one begins to learn rather quickly, however, is that across denominations there are different cultures of giving. In my experience in different denominations, Methodists like getting a high overhead going back to the denomination, and then they want you to give more to missions. The Presbyterians in Hot Springs are well funded, but like to hoard their money in endowments. Baptists in each of my churches feel good if they can make budget and give 10 percent to missions related activities, including denominational support.

Much of the literature I have comes from Methodism, which challenges a lot of my Baptist thinking. Especially different in Methodist life is the prominent role of the pastor in being aware of individual giving, and tracking issues in that regard.

Recently, a ministry colleague asked what resources people were using in stewardship. Here are the ones that are on my shelf. No reviews. Just a bibliography.

Here are a few of the resources I have on church stewardship

Robert Schnase--Practicing Extravagant Generosity, The Five Practices of Fruitful Living, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (the advantage of this stuff is that there is so much in the way of resources to support the program and philosophy)

Adam Hamilton: Enough--Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity

J. Clif Christopher--Not Your Parents Offering Plate, Whose Offering Plate is It?

Christian Smith et. al--Passing the Plate: Why Americans Don't Give Away More Money

Kelly Kapic and Justin Borger--God So Loved, He Gave

The Rev. Charles Cloughen Jr.--One Minute Stewardship Sermons

Randy Alcorn--The Treasure Principle

Andy Stanley--Fields of Gold

Kristine Miller and Scott McKenzie--Bounty: Ten Ways to Increase Giving

Margaret Marcuson--Money and Your Minstry

Brad Formsma-- I Like Giving

I have also found being involved in non-profits to be helpful. For instance, seeing the way the United Way approached fundraising I thought was insightful and helpful in many ways.

What resources have you found?





Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book Review of The Missional Quest by Lance Ford & Brad Brisco



The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church of the Long Run
by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco
ISBN 978-0-8308-4105-9
IVP Praxis
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been reading about and discussing ideas about what it means to be "missional" for years. Our church was even rewarded for being externally focused and reaching our community through going out and connecting with the people, civic organizations, and government we worked with by our Regional Leadership. Missional Leadership gets me excited about being a part of the church, and a part of the vision Jesus had for his kingdom (as opposed to mine or our kingdom).

Unfortunately, to be honest, much like terms such as emergent and community, I think the term is quickly bordering on being overused in church circles. I remember my denomination (ABC/USA) doing this big nationwide tour from my denominational headquarters to teach us what it meant to be missional. What we learned is that they liked missional slogans and lingo, but they really did not know that much about what the "missional church" conversation was all about. Instead they were seeking to re-brand the denomination a little to get more money for traditional missions and the United Mission funds of the denomination while really changing nothing about how they see and do church. My experience was much the same with other denominations I deal with these days in the federated church I serve.

Don't let the overuse of the missional nomenclature keep you from exploring what people who are really practicing and living missional church life have to say. Lance Ford and Brad Brisco are leaders in what the "missional church" conversation is really all about. And the Missional Quest is a fantastic book that balances church vision and philosophy with clear practical steps to grow one's church from a self-serving consumer business model to truly living the kingdom of God in their community, neighborhood, and world.

The Missional Quest is very much a how-to book, but a how-to book that is more descriptive than prescriptive. Early on in the book, it takes on the importance of spiritual formation in the missional church. After all, if we are going to bring Jesus into the world, it kind of helps to know him and be connected with him intimately.For this reason, rhythms of spiritual development and mission, outreach, and connecting with our communities need to be paired.

It also takes on the importance of equipping people for ministry, of ministering to people's real tangible needs, and of really connecting with people where they are at, out in the world, and continuing to bring the church to the world instead of expecting the world to come to the church.

I enjoyed the discussion of place in relationship to missional living. Included in the discussion of place are missional practices that help grow us and help us at the same time bring Christ to others. The small group material was very helpful as well.

Much of what I have read in missional church conversations as well as similar outreach efforts focus on church planters. This book, although supportive of church planting, believes that by God's grace it is possible to transition churches to a missional focus. That was very encouraging to me.

I look forward to reading more books by the rest of the Forge Ministries folks, as well as these two specifically.


Book Review of the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson




The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
by Mark Batterson
ISBN 978-0-310-33073-8
Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker


Each year our D.S. gifts each of the ministers under his supervision with a book to think about and read for the upcoming year. This was the book we received a couple of years ago. I am just now getting it finished.

The guiding story that launches this book comes from the Hebrew book "The Book of Legends". It is about a man that lived a century before Jesus named Honi, and Honi  prayed boldly enough that God answered his prayer and ended a drought that afflicted the whole nation of Israel. Part of what he did was to draw a circle, and tell God he was not going to leave the circle he drew until God brought the land rain. And, as Honi's prayer was answered, people were moved to renew their faith and to understand the true power of bold, big prayers.

Batterson then draws from Honi, from Scripture, and from his own personal experience to describe for people the power and importance of intercessory and petitionary prayer. There are many helpful slogans and prayer practices that Batterson shares, such as "praying through" instead of just "praying to", praying for big things,  making your prayers specific, keeping a prayer journal, establishing a regular prayer habits, about having goals brought to the Lord in prayer and so on.

For people who like specifics, this book has plenty, both from Batterson and his friends in his church and around the world. The Circle Maker is nothing if not practical.

My biggest challenge in reading this book is that many of the examples, instead of changed lives, had to do with wealth, personal achievement, and real estate purchases. And, while that is more helpful than hearing about biological prayer requests all of the time, I also would like to hear more about how prayer changes lives and not just bank accounts.


Monday, August 04, 2014

Book Review of Frameworks by Eric Larson




Frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament
by Eric Larson
ISBN 978-0-615-63312-1
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Frameworks is a nice book. It feels nice when the reader holds it. It has beautiful pictures, and it has a nice cover. It also has a nice concept. Larson goes book by book through the New Testament, and really digs into the main themes and the point of each book of the New Testament. The visual aids are really well done, as well as some of the questions that lead the reader to go deeper in their knowledge of the Bible.

The perplexing thing about Frameworks is that it does not fit easily into a certain mold or type of book for a certain type of reader. The way the book is organized and put together, it could almost be a coffee table book--yet in many ways it is too deep to be just that. It would also be an excellent text for a Bible survey class in a church, although in my church it would be much too spendy for that kind of thing. When I will probably use this is when I am in a mentoring relationship where I am trying to help someone get a better biblical foundation. Larson does a great job of helping the reader go deeper, without overwhelming them. And the visual presentation will make it less intimidating for people do not feel comfortable with a different kind of book.

Book Review of Get Your Teenager Talking by Jonathan McKee



Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations
by Jonathan McKee
ISBN 978-0-7642-1185-0
Bethany House
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This book is a good book with a relatively simple idea. In Get Your Teenager Talking Jonathan McKee has offered a very practical discussion guide to get adults visiting with young people.

The guide begins with some general tips about starting conversations with teenagers. I don't think it is awful hard, but I am aware than many people do.

Then there are 180 conversation starters. These conversation starters begin with an open question designed to get conversation and dialogue started. Most of the questions are pretty interesting, and would even be good questions to ask at a dinner with friends.
In each conversation the reader is also given an insight to guide their listening with each conversation. After that, there are also some follow up questions, as well as as some more questions that push the conversation to a deeper and more personal and intimate level.

I would think this book would be an excellent resource in a number of settings. It might be helpful in a family devotion time with teenagers. It might also be very helpful in a small group, or as an icebreaker conversation in a fairly inactive youth group. However, I think its original design is just to get parents and kids talking with each other about issues and situations that matter in their lives. I will both keep this book and share it with others. Not very many books are quite so practical.

Monday Morning Quarterback: 8.3.14




6:50am  Wake up. Stayed up later after going to watch "Tammy" with my wife the night before. Last week increased our movie date nights by double for the year, since we usually only do that around our anniversary.

7:00am  Help get the kids breakfast started.

7:10am Shower time. Shaved on Friday, so need this Sunday. Yipee

7:30am Iron clothes, get dressed etc. What? No shirts ripping? No spills? No struggle to find my stuff? This day is going well!

8:00 Grab a G2 and head out the door. Get to the church. Unlock the back door. Check the church parking situation with the motorcycle fiesta/travelling wall. Everything seems to look good. Walk in the church and see that Tracy has delivered on the sign for the Under Construction theme. I put the sign in front of the pulpit. Rock on!

8:10 Settle in. Pray. Review message. Plan children's message. Realize I am going to have to run home to pick up a plant.
8:40 Run home and pick up a plant.

8:45 Begin to observe who is coming to church. Each week I send out postcards to people I see that have been gone. This ministry seems to have shown fruit, as I see several folks coming in that I had sent cards to because they had been missed in worship.I hear people questioning the appearance of the sanctuary as they walk in. This is what I want. To grab people's attention and shake them up a little bit. Caution tape is hung on the pillars. Road Work Ahead Signs and under construction signs around the church. A big ROAD WORK AHEAD construction sign leaning on the pulpit. And now a flower. People start asking, what does a flower have to do with all of this? PERFECT.

9:00 Start out worship.

9:10 First hymn sounds ok, but not great. Such is the case when it is a new hymn with an old tune. I am picking mostly Psalms. Again, as we face the under construction theme, I want people to try some different things.

9:20 Prayer time is fairly brief. Thank God. Sometimes there are folks in our church that have prayer request tirets, spouting requests as nervous ticks from out of nowhere. It makes the service drag on

9:30 Get into the pulpit. I preach with a limited outline. I am excited about the UNDER CONSTRUCTION SERIES, and do well. People seem to connect with my preaching. I get good non verbal feedback. I am less precise, there are more filler words, but I am also less note bound.

9:52 I finish sermon and feel good. Now it is a race to see if we can get done in an hour

9:59 Closing hymn and benediction are all that is left. Then, from out of nowhere another prayer request is shared by someone with prayer terretts about praying for first responders during rally week. I handle that request while deftly moving us to the sending song. Well played on my part I thought

10:02 Service is finished. Two minutes long. People can live with that, although there are some rushing out the door during the final hymn.

10:15 Visit with people for a while

11:15 Drop in on the end of the missions meeting. Some folks seem a little grumpy. Wonder why,

11:30 Everyone leaves, I lock up.

11:45 I get home

12:12 I help with lunch. Then get distracted while Jen finishes up what I start.

1:00  Put kids to bed. I do powerpoint for evening

2:30 Powerpoint finished

2:45 Girls get up from naps

3:15 Run to store with family

3:30 Let kids play while I read and visit with Jen and watch kids. The way Sunday afternoons in the summer are supposed to be. Lots of laughs, a few cries, and a peaceful hour or so.

5:00 Go back to work to prep for the evening service

5:15 Get evening powerpoint on flash drive

5:35  Finish setting up worship space for evening.

5:45 Visit with folks. Remember to go get pens

6:00 Begin worship. I preach the same service as the morning

7:30 Worship ends

7:45 Talk with gentleman who is a leader in the recovery movement in our town that comes to our evening service. Good conversation about life, spiritual growth, and reaching out to folks in need of a clear direction in their life. He brought two friends. They are both excited to come back. My wife knows one of the visitors from working at Social Service. Conflicts of interest like this abound when your wife is a social worker in a town of 4000 people.

8:15 Get home from work

9:00 Put Karis to bed. About a 20 minute ritual.

9:30 Head out in a quest to find Jennifer a pizza. She saw and ad. Now she is hungry. Neither of us have had dinner yet.

10:00 Get home from running all over town. Pizza from Subway. Ice from Fresh Start. Drinks from Dakotamart Gas. Arghhh. Poor customer service all the way around.

10:15-MIDNIGHT Jennifer and I watch Catfish TV. I say that Cashfishers are either fat people who are ashamed of how they look or homosexuals. There is one of each in these two episodes. Called it!

MIDNIGHT-1 I can't sleep without alone time. I spend an hour doing nothing after Jen goes to bed. Then I go to bed as well.


Friday, August 01, 2014

Under Construction: Article for the paper on 8.5




UNDER CONSTRUCTION
16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. (2 Cor. 4:16 CEB)

Every once in a while I get in a conversation with someone about church and matters of faith. Usually somewhat isolated and from out of nowhere, I suppose because I am a preacher-creature, they say something like, “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites”.
I don’t often try and mount an argument at this point. One reason I do not argue is because I suspect that when people say something like this one of two things is happening. Either the person is speaking from a place of genuine pain coming from a difficult experience, or they are trying to pick a fight or be defensive, or all of the above. In any of these cases, trying to forcefully advocate faith and argue for being a part of a community of faith won’t get me very far.
Another reason I do not argue about this is because there is a ring of truth to the statement. No church will ever live up to the image of the ideal church that others place upon it, or the hopes that those that are a part of the church place on themselves.
Let me explain. If I am a believer in Jesus Christ in a biblical sense, I acknowledge that I am a sinful, broken person seeking to serve a perfect Savior that I believe is the only hope to make me whole, and in fact the only hope for the whole world. And I also acknowledge that although I am growing to be more like Jesus (I John 3:2), I am still a work in progress. I will be until the day I die.
As a Christian pastor, I see amazing things every day that God does in and through his people by the power of the Holy Spirit. I also see how truly messed up people can be, even people who say that they are believers in Christ. This does not surprise me. I know that as believers we are not even what we want to be, for even when we want to do right, we end up doing the wrong thing (Romans 7). I know that like unfinished works of art, God is still working upon each of us. And I know deep down in my heart that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—and I am compelled to follow him, and to participate in a community of faith because Christ draws me, and I know that even through the difficult moments in community God is making me into the person, and making you into the person, that he created us to be.
I have often issued a humorous invitation or threat, depending on how you look at it, to my congregation. I have often said that I am tempted to have a banner printed and placed on the front of our church building that says this, “No Perfect People Allowed, All Others Welcome”.

There is no such thing as a perfect person, other than Jesus. There is also no such thing as a perfect congregation of Jesus. The Church around the world is, I believe, the hope of the world. It is also continuing to be under construction. God is still working on his people, still working with his people. Seeking to make them whole. Seeking to work through his people to mend the world. God is still building his people, with Jesus Christ as the foundation stone or cornerstone. Thank God for his patience with me. Thank God for his patience with us. And thank God for the beauty and truth we find in the middle of the mess of life, and the light we find through the church in the darkness of this world. Thank God for the unearned gifts we received, including our own salvation. Thank God for his grace. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback 7.28.14


Monday Morning Quarterback 7.28.14




There is a blog that I follow on occasion written by a Presbyterian minister that I attended college with. Each week he writes a Monday Morning Quarterback post, reviewing the previous Sunday. I thought the habit might be helpful, both to look back on and to process through the previous week. I have kept several people's names anonymous here. I am not trying to keep secrets, but neither do I expect this to be read by very many people here in my church. I just need to begin thinking outloud about ministry in a way that people can offer input, and so I can see my journey in print on this blog. Here is the first installment

6:20  Wake up. I set the alarm for 6, but hit the snooze twice

6:30  Shower and shave the head. My weekly shave of my head takes a little bit of work. I recently bought a Flexball from Gillette, and after getting used to it, I am impressed with the job it does shaving my head.


7:00  Wake the wife up, who is already getting ready because the kids are beginning to crawl in bed and wiggle a lot.


7:30  The company begins to make their way upstairs as I am trying to help watch the kids and iron my clothes for the morning


8:00  I get out the door on time! This is good news and it feels good to get in the office by 8. I will need to work on the children's message, go over the sermon once more, unlock stuff, turn on the sound etc. Excited for the morning


8:30  Ushers and greeters begin to arrive. Communion prep people are also at work.


8:45 Steff shows up. She is a friend from college and will be doing one of two special music pieces. Her family is with her. I love those kids. I love kids more now that I ever have. My babies do that kind of thing to my heart.


8:50 Our friends from the Springs arrive. I greet people in the sanctuary. I watch for people to introduce themselves to our guests. Very few are doing so. I try to make the effort to make introductions with some people. But mostly after saying hello I greet and watch. We have set hospitality as a goal, and in recent weeks it is beginning to show that we do a piss poor job of even introducing ourselves and being polite, much less being friendly and hospitable. I file this in the back of my mind.

8:52 I go get the wireless microphone on. Check on the nursery. Take one of the guest kids back to the nursery. She wants to hug me and wants me to carry her. Very sweet


8:53 A member begins to vocally complain that she is going to be stuck helping the nursery attendant because there are so many kids. DEEP BREATHE.


9:00 Worship begins. Announcements are few. Attendance was mediocre. Will be after count is adjusted, in the 80s. Thank goodness all my friends are here. I have been praying for a monthly average of 100 by the end of the year.

9:05 The first hymn sounds great.

9:25 The prayer requests only last 10 minutes. Praise the Lord.

9:35 Sermon begins. I try to go with an outline, and having all my notes on one sheet of paper. I begin to notice who is gone and who is there. Will need to adjust the sermon as we go. 

I also wonder how many of them are attending worship with our former pastor, just out of town. The thoughts only make me angry. Why did the Conference place us in competition like that? For the last few years I have tried to get the D.S. to share what the boundaries are, and what the book of discipline says about former pastors and retired pastors and their relationship with the church. I have received mixed answers.

For the last few years I have dealt with a previous pastor that has had a difficult time detaching from the congregation, in my opinion. Is it appropriate for pastors that have left their appointment to continue to lead and attend Bible studies, attend and greet people at funerals (even if it is because he worked his way onto the funeral home staff after he left the pastorate here), to show up at church mission and birthday dinners, to attend Easter worship, to have a pastor's spouse lead disaffected members in Bible study, do solos in church, and be asked to participate in choir? Perhaps the Methodists realize that they are not going to have a pastor here for a while and are seeking to push people toward the town and country Methodist church? To offer input to the personnel regarding my job performance? I don't know. 

I have invited them back to the church. So far that invitation has been declined. So occasional visits are made, with the former pastor at one point getting up to leave when I got up to preach. The church doesn't see anything wrong with this. To me it feels like poor boundaries. But, I don't think I can deal with it until I am clear what the ethics of Methodist tradition include. All I know is that I have enough to deal with without having the former pastor in competition, which is now front and center with him pastoring a church less than 15 minutes away.

I don't want to be angry when I preach. I want to speak God's grace. Must push these thoughts to the back of my head. 

I see Mike and Lynn in balcony. This encourages me. They see me and smile. I look at Marce. She is smiling. I see Garry. He is a good listener. Appreciation of the people that are there replace my frustration with who is not. That is nice. I move on.

I try to preach, but I am dealing with a subtext. The parable is the parable of the wheat and tares. The parable deals with not trying to "pull the weeds out" (symbolizing unbelievers) until the harvest. 

Our church had made a stand to not let Mormons serve in our outreach ministry if they were going to make it their mission field. They were welcome to serve if they came as members of the community, but they were not allowed to wear their badges or promote their faith if they serve. When the missionaries heard this they decided not to serve. There are still people upset about our decision. They tell others I personally went not only to the Mormons but all the members to kick them out of the church. This did not happen. But the lies persist. 

So, in the service I want to teach the church not have an "us"/"them" mentality, but to still have covenant accountability and clear boundaries in our ministry and mission. But I don't want to focus there. So I don't. I try to focus on how God leaves us in the world among unbelievers and in the church among unbelievers so that his gospel can spread and we can grow. I think I got my point across.


9:49 I notice one of the kids falling asleep. Perhaps I need to wrap it up. I think I have done for hardly having looked at my notes.

9:52 Sermon finishes. Because of the air conditioning, I always feel like I am preaching in a tunnel. I feel spent and discouraged after the message. Did I really connect? I wonder. Now for communion. Decide it is better to switch the hymn to transition between the sermon and the Lord's Supper instead of the Lord's Supper and the offering. Hymn first will give me an opportunity to get centered as I lead the ordinance/sacrament.

9:58 Steff sings. I just close my eyes and let it soak in. It is well with my soul....it is well with my soul...I think of the history of this song, and listen to the beauty of her singing acapella. In this time of discouragement, I think of the context of the hymn and thank God for his grace in the middle of everything.

10:05 Lois plays Amazing Grace during the cup. It is also wonderful, but I am worried about the clock. 

10:08 Offering.

10:10 Closing song

10:11 Benediction.....YES

10:12 Greet people. Try and remember names. New couple says emphatically that they WILL BE back. Oh, I hope I hope.

10:18  Check attendance. Realize children are not counted. Amend attendance. Why don't they count kids. Hmm.

10:20 Go to Fellowship Hall for Refreshment time

10:40 Say good by to Steff's family

10:50 Go Home to say goodbye to the Martinez family

11:10 Martinez family leaves and I go get my stuff out of the office. 

1:00 Everyone naps but me. Ahhh quiet time.

1:15 I study for sermon #2--Nursing home. I usually do this in the form of three children's messages with a similar theme. This weeks theme: growth.

2:00 I head up to nursing home

2:10 I ask Trish (the nurse on duty) to make the announcement that church will begin at 2:30. She said that it was already done but that she will do it again. I am impressed with the changes at Castle Manor. People are actually helpful and friendly. But Trish is always helpful....

2:30 Worship begins at nursing home. 6 attendees. Best attendance of the month. This is my last week. I think about volunteering to do it every week. 

3:00 Worship ends

3:01 I visit with the residents that hang around for 15 minutes or so, and learn more of their stories. 

3:45 After running for groceries I get home. After the weekend and the day I am wiped out. Feel bad I am not playing with kids, so I try, but I am a million miles away

5:00 Go to get caught up at church. Meet someone on the way from the parsonage to the church that has a deep and important life concern. We talk until 5:50. 

5:50 I rush to get stuff from the office to the fellowship hall for the contemporary service. Then realize we have no A/V person. Worship leader makes hard copies of the songs. Attendance 15. Ugghhh. Back to where we started with this group when I got here.

6:10 Start service. Realize that we have not set communion up. We will do that during our greeting time after singing

7:05 Service gets done. Land speed record.

7:10 Talk w/ Chuck. He is such a good guy. Talk w/ Jenny too. Awesome couple. Wish they lived closer.

7:30 Everyone leaves and I can pick up

7:45 I get things locked up and can go home.

8:00 Love on kiddos

8:30 Put Karis to bed

9:00 Kiss Karis good night and veg out watching late night reality tv on TLC. Analyze villages that "Escaping Alaska" come from. Think about how they could have had greater diversity in participation of Alaska Natives...and mainly just try and not think.

12:00ish Go to Bed.