Saturday, November 11, 2006

Time to Eternity

A friend, Mentor, and a formative agent of my spiritual condition, Pastor John Bollmann has changed worlds. On November 8th he struggled with his heart and stepped from time into eternity with his family surrounding him.

John was the Pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Ellendale North Dakota when I was confirmed in 1959. My parents were killed in a motor vehicle accident 6 weeks later. He conducted the funeral. I actually remember what he said that day. Here's a picture of the church building where all these things happened.

I have great men who have been agents of development for me. Men who invested themselves in my life and for that I am eternally thankful.

John's investment during those years for me was to help me reach depths in God that allowed me to go higher. You can't go higher if you won't go deeper. I was never satisfied to stay the same. Pastor John was a pusher as hooked me on Jesus like he was giving me Crack Cocaine.

Even though I drifted and I sought out lots of optional directions for a while, the teachings and principles I learned from that little catechism still frame my life. When I came back to Jesus at age 33 I knew there had to be more. I wouldn't be satisfied without finding much more. John hoped I would get it in traditional Lutheran venues, but I was looking for more. It wasn't in the churches with the same name on the door but without John and his encouragement in finding more.

I remember meeting with him several years ago in Palos Park IL after we had moved to Chicago. When he asked where I was attending church and I told him he was disappointed. I could see it in his eyes. Later he came to see my Brother John who was staying with us while doctoring in Chicagoland. That was a precious time. Now he stands with hands upraised in robes of pure white on the sea of glass before the throne of God. I have a feeling he may understand the addiction better now. I was just seeking heaven on this side of the veil before I go to the other side.

There are no Lutherans in heaven. There are no Catholics in heaven. There are no Pentecostals in heaven. There are only passionate worshippers of Jesus in Heaven, full of glory with joy unspeakable. Seems like it should be like that here on earth as it is in heaven. At least we should try. We pray it, why not us, why not here, why not now?

I had lunch with Brother John and His College Roommate Harold Hein a couple years ago. Harry is a member of our church. It was delightful. I felt like I was home. Brother Harry called me today to tell me that John had gone on ahead.

The funeral is Wednesday. I don't have a place to send cards but the service will be at Trinity Lutheran Church of Tinley Park IL.

Brother John, you were and are loved. You got everything we are promised on earth, 3 score and 10 or maybe 20 if God grants his grace.

Grace was granted well into 4 score. You were full of years.

Life is best when well lived.

John lived it well.

11-11-11 Thanks Falls Short

Every Year about this time I get a little choked up.  I think of the men and women of the Military from the Revolutionary War to today's conflicts in the Middle East.  Emotion grabs me.
I guess we all do.  So, what do we do?  Send a card?  Say a prayer?  Say Thank You?
I do, I did, but it feels inadequate.  I live a simple whole life because I am free, a freedom purchased with blood.  I could go all spiritual on you here; another time.  I'm talking about the blood of patriots shed on the field of battle. 
I guess that's why I'm such a devoted conservative.  I think anything that diminishes or demeans the sacrifice made by those wonderful warriors is on the verge of sacrilege. 
I wasn't always this passionate.  I wasn't always this thankful.  I was much younger and more stupid then. 
This probably is why my devotion to God and Country is so deep and deeply felt.  It is why when during this recent election people who demeaned our military received my personal vilification at such an intense level.
It's why I want our military to do what it takes to win.  That's why this idiocy regarding charging Rumsfeld for war crimes angers me so.  Abu Graib was an embarrassment, not a crime. The fact there are young warriors in jail right now in California for doing what they knew to be right is a travesty.  If we as a country really valued and honored our war heroes alive and dead we would immediately release every one of these men and women from all these embarrassments.  I hope before President Bush leaves office he pardons them all in one fell swoop. 
Winning means that the human freedom and vision woodpile is higher than when we went in.  I think that has happened in Afghanistan, it is happening in Iraq.  Oh, the battle isn't done.  The struggle against forces trying to defeat freedom is never finished. It isn't finished in the USA.  We still have freedom hating demagogues in our political system.  I won't name them.  Your list would be different from mine.
So on this day after the birthday of the Marines, on this veterans day, I salute those who serve and served.  You are worthy of our honor. 
Thanks seems so inadequate.  I guess you have to know how I mean it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Are you Called? - Part 2

I remember the funeral of my Grandmother. The church was packed. She had lived a rich full life. She and her late husband had a lot of children. They were all there, with a slew of her grandchildren, and a passel of great-grandchildren. Add in the spouses of the generations, nieces and nephews and their children.

The church was pretty much filled with family, all coming before God to commend her back to him. I visited the grave at that little country cemetery a few weeks back. I stood and thought what if? This is the church our family built when they came from Germany and settled in South Dakota. It's closed now.

What if she had not met or married her husband in the late 1800s, what if they had not gotten married. Most of the people in that Lutheran Church would not have existed from the middle-aged grandparents to the little kids squirming in the pews. The union of those two has had consequences they could never have dreamed about, leading to untold lives down thru the generations, untold marriages and untold new children being born.

Businesses were created, political figures emerged, food was produced, communities were led, churches ministered in, all people called by God out of a family calling.

God could have done this by divine creation; he could have repopulated the earth each time a new generation passed without using humans. But he uses humans, procreation, and parenthood.

That’s why the fourth commandment exists. The foundation of all of the law regarding man to man comes from this. All authority roots from the concept of parenting. We have lost much of that in our society but it’s time to get it back.

We understand that Family Beruf is important. But what about the more mundane.

Can we understand a ministry of cleanliness as is executed by those who are called to that work?
  • Those who collect our thrash
  • Those who fix our plumbing
  • Those who clean our toilets
  • Those who clean up after you in hotel rooms
  • Those who maintain your school or church

This is the way God deals with your environment. Those people if they know it or not are called with a gift of work to minister cleanliness for you and yours.

Your Beruf is a GIFT from God. Unfortunately not everyone sees it that way. That happens because we don’t hear the call of God in our work. It happens because we are told:
  1. Study Hard
  2. Get Good Grades
  3. Graduate from a Good College
  4. Get a Good Job with a Good Pension
  5. And LUMP IT. Hate every day of the drudgery they call work.
One of the greatest mental health issues psychiatrists deal with in the world today is people who hate the work they do. This is a crime. God wants so much more for us.

What God wants for you is that your heart sings in your calling, in your Beruf. It is your highest and best calling when the following are true:

  1. It’s something you love
  2. It’s something you are accomplished at
  3. It’s something you know and understand well
  4. It’s something you see thru the big picture purpose
  5. It’s something you would do even if you weren’t paid to do it

That is your calling. And it will change over time. God will change the call on your life. He gives new calls for his purposes. When he does you will know it’s him and respond.

This isn’t about our immersion in Jesus. That NEVER changes.

But things do change:

  • Family calls change (Empty nest, divorce, widowhood)
  • Churches (you are always a member of the body but different churches)
  • Government and Community (Parties in power, laws)

Today’s 21st Century Graduates are now told to expect at least 5 career changes in their lifetimes. Not 5 job changes. 5 total new and different occupations.

I think I’ve had 10. Most people I know have had at least 3.

So, the idea that our call from God is static (Unchanging) is flawed.

The question we must ultimately ask ourselves is do I give Glory to God in my Beruf?

  • In my Family – do I operate as the face and hands of Jesus?
  • In my Community - Do I take part, do I vote, do I do my duty?
  • In my Church – Am I there, am I part of it, does it matter?
  • In my Beruf – How do I glorify God in what I do

I believe that scripturally we glorify God best when we exhibit 3 primary characteristics:

  1. Integrity
  2. Diligence
  3. Focused attention on work

I am constantly frustrated by Christians who use the boss’s time to initiate Bible study on the job, have a big booming Bible on the desk, Fill their cubicle or work area with pictures of Jesus, crosses and scripture verses, They spend time they get paid for praying and not working (receive the Holy Ghost and pray in tongues, you can then do both).

Some Christians are so busy handing out tracts to fellow workers getting them saved they are a poor employee. I want to see us witness to others by who we are. An epistle read by all men.

The fact is, if we know our calling, if we know who we are, we will walk in confidence and authority. The phone should ring at churches across the nation by bosses asking for more Christians to hire.

There is an apocryphal story about a priest who lived in a small town a century back in Europe. It was a Jewish community. One day as this priest walked thru town he spotted a young man who was guarding a home. The priest asked him who he worked for. The young man explained.

As the priest walked away the young man asked him, “Rabbi, Who do you work for”. The Priest was flustered and said, “I don’t work for anyone” and walked on. A few minutes later the Priest returned and asked the young man if he would consent to go to work for him. The young man pondered and said sure.

Asking what his duties would be of the Priest, The Priest said, “To ask me every day who I work for”.

He didn’t want to ever again forget. Let us do the same.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

City Limits of Sodom

The hogs on our farm growing up were creative. If they could get their snout thru the gate they could get out to where the really good stuff was kept, like our garden.

That’s why we kept the gate shut and didn’t allow even the nose to stick thru.

Well, the hogs are out and there is cheering all around. I am a traditional family values guy regarding marriage, particularly marriage between a man and a woman. I believe in marriage. Several state referendums were passed this last election which was supposed to be sooooo liberal against same sex marriage.

But, even with all that, I am pessimistic. The conservatives don’t stand for this. They haven’t gone to the mat. They have allowed the hog to get his nose out and now the thing is running wild. I had said a year ago that if same sex marriage was codified then polygamy would be next. Well, it’s here.

What’s next, marriage to your dog or cat? Marriage between brothers and sisters? Sons marrying their mothers? Grandfathers marrying their granddaughters? What prohibitions are left?

We are losing this cultural battle. I’m sad about it.

I point to this article that appeared in the Sunday opinion section of the Chicago Tribune. It also appeared on Townhall.Com. Is gay marriage a threat to marriage? It’s long but interesting. Steve Chapman basically says, there is nothing threatening about same sex marriage to the family. Really.

Look here is the rest of the hog. In the Chicago Sun Times on Sunday this article was printed on the front page of the commentary section. An Attorney, Gary Becker, wrote for this website and it’s interesting but troubling. Is There a Case for Legalizing Polygamy? He is endorsing legalized polygamy. Not for religious purposes, just legalized polygamy.

These arguments seem really harmless until you take them to their logical extension.

How far are we really from the degradation of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah? I can see the city limit’s sign clearly.

We are in such deep doo doo.

Are You Called? Part 1

What is a call? What does it mean? How does it help us? Can wel be anchored in our calling? Our calling is most often understood by our work. But, it is much deeper and richer than that. Our callings in life, are Holy unto God. When you do the work you do you are doing something Holy.

So the question is, what is holy about work. Is any work truly Holy? Is being a Pastor more holy than being a garbage man? Most pastors and many garbage men might say YES. They would be wrong. If we understand the concept of work we can grasp the meaning of the holy in what we do every day. All work is Holy when it is part of our call.

Work - Vocation - Employment was written about a great deal in Martin Luther's booklet called, "The Freedom of the Christian".

The problem is when much of what Luther wrote about work which is so essential in today's world is lost in translation. For real. For instance, Luther wrote a paper called, "die Kichliche Gesamteausgabe" I speak enough German to know that those who translated that title into "Holy Orders" were not great German Scholars. The problem with language is that you can say things in one language that simply won't translate into another.

Holy Orders should have been translated "The totality of the missions and purposes within Christian pursuits that are callings and commands (Orders) of God".

OK, Holy Orders it is, but you see the problem. It doesn't translate.

When I lived in Germany a friend of mine (a Pastor) asked me "was ist ihre Beruf". Now in America we might ask, what do you do for a living? That isn't what he exactly asked me. Just as Luther was trying to help people understand the call of God in his writings regarding the work they did He was asking me what my Call was. He really was asking me, What is your calling, profession, occupation, work, who are you, vocation? Complex stuff.

Luther maintained accurately that God Calls and installs people to accomplish his missions on the earth.

I had an appendix attack. I believe in divine healing. God could have healed me on the spot. He did heal me.
  • The Doctor analyzed my problem
  • The Surgeon did an operation
  • The Anesthesiologist gassed me
  • The nurse helped me back to life
  • A prescription was filled by a pharmacist to waylay any infection

SO, in this case, God healed me, but he wore the mask of the medical community in doing so. He used the Beruf of the professionals in getting me well.

We pray in the Lords prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”.

He does:
This morning I had Cinnamon Toast.
  • The farmer grew the wheat
  • The trucker hauled it to the terminal
  • The trainman drove it to the mill
  • The millers ground it
  • The Trucker hauled the flower to the baker
  • The Baker baked it
  • It was delivered by the Pepperidge Farm Guy
  • The checkout lady took my money
Then I ate my God Given daily bread

My daily bread was provided by the beruf of many people doing what God called them to do. God wore a mask providing it.

We are all called to particular berufs. That's how God cares and governs his created order.

  • Teaches thru Teachers
  • Protects thru Firemen and Police
  • Soldiers and Government control chaos
  • And he provides beauty thru artists and musicians.

He uses each person in the various callings in their life to accomplish his purposes.

Oh sure, we can SIN in our beruf. The crooked store clerk who steals from his boss, the used car salesman who lies about the miles on the cars he sells. Flim flam is sin. It's a misuse of your calling from God. It is taking the name of the Lord in vain.

We all have at least 4 berufs in our lives. I think of 4 in particular for me:

  1. Family - Husband, Father, Son
  2. Work - Worker, Boss, Employee, Businessman
  3. Community - Citizen, Taxpayer, Voter, Candidate, Official, Activist
  4. Kingdom of God - Church, Helps, Worshipper, Giver, Teacher, Caregiver, Leader, Participant and even Minister

If we keep our eyes open we can see God all around in our lives wearing the mask of people fulfilling the calls in their lives. It's God in a Mask. Think of the waitress that waited on you, or the guy who bagged your groceries.

They are angels unawares. How we treat them is how we would treat God.

And conversely God is in us. Hidden to be revealed in out callings.

But remember, we can sin in our beruf.
  • Parents can abuse children
  • Doctors might abort babies
  • Businessmen can be crooked
  • And Government can be corrupt (even in Illinois)

It is SIN. But God can and is always in it. He can even use the error of sinful men to accomplish his purposes or Romans 8:28 isn't true.

Part Two:
How God uses generations to fulfill his call on families

Catching the Bus

We lived far off the road on the farm near Harwood ND when our kids were small and rode the bus. When Kevin was born we got Skip. Skip was a little dog; A wirehaired rat terrier. He looked like a Russell Terrier. He was supposed to be Kevin's dog but I stole him. I guess as much as you can I loved that little dog. I cried when he died right after Kevin at 18 years graduated high school.

Lots of life happened during that time.

Skip chased cars, trucks, tractors and his favorite, the school bus. He would run that baby down and bark like a madman. The joke always was, what would he do with it if he caught it? The answer was the same as the Democrats face.

They chased the bus, they barked, the media cheered them on and now they have caught the bus. Like little Skipper Dog the real question is, what are you going to do with it. I don't think they know. They had no actual ideas during the election other than "We ain't Bush".

Unfortunately, the Republicans blew it; they shot themselves in the foot. Now they handed that gun to the Dems.

So, enjoy those new drapes Ms Pelosi. Maybe they will let you take them with you when you lose again.
I hope for all that is Holy that will be the case in two years or maybe four.

Grab that 20" truck tire and hang on with all your might.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lazy NO

I had a friend who was an exec in a large firm. His easy way out of any decision was to just say no. It wasn't about Nancy Reagan, it was about being just plain lazy. It was easier to say no than to consider the situation, apply intelligent problem solving methods and come up with a practical solution for change. I recently read an article that described him exactly. Read it here.

NO or it's close relative "inaction" is simply gutlessness or sometimes simple laziness. A friend I had long ago in the ministry when he wanted to table something (say no) couldn't bring himself to disappoint people so he would just say, "I'll pray about it". We all came to understand that meant NO.

We loved him but his inaction cost him in ministry. He hated to deal with difficulty. I was in leadership in the church and often would push him to make a decision that would empower those who could get things done. He lived under the illusion that if he just said, "I'll pray about it" that things might get better. They never did.

So we lurched from crisis to crisis, never making adjustments or decisions. The Church never grew or adapted. I left the church after some problems developed in his marriage. Couldn't say no I guess.

Becoming an executive, a leader, a pastor sometimes the system rewards inaction and a lack of courage. If you never stick your neck out you no one can cut your head off. If you do nothing there is nothing to criticize. I guess no one ever kicks a dead dog. That’s what this really is, leadership death.

I am of a differing bent. I will use a baseball bat sometimes to get action. I can border on the brutal. But, things happen. Many are good. Change takes place. People whine but net results are what count. I let those who like to appease and say no sit on the sidelines. They can mop up after the victory and take the credit. I don’t care.

Kind of like Da Bears yesterday. I would rather have players who reached out, tried, did what they could and fell on the field of battle than 100 nay sayers who were on talk radio after the game telling about how Quarterback Rex Grossman throws off the back of his heels and doesn't lean in when he throws. The ball sails.

OK, hotshot. Do something. You don't have to get on the field, make some constructive direction. Go to Lovie. Tell Rex. Don't bitch about it on the radio.


Laziness. Not worthy of being called a leader.

Winston Churchhill was my kind of Guy. Of course he lost the election after he won the war. But, he’s my hero. Principled, man of action, gutsy, didn't always win but always fought the good fight. I don't always win right away, but I'll play till I do. I've got more staying power than my opposition.

Nevah, Nevah give up. Fight On!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ted Haggard will sleep well tonite

The glee on the part of the godless left with the fall of Ted Haggard is understandable. High Profile, successful, honored, trusted, respected and the kind of man people nearly can fall into worship of Sins in Spades and gets found out.

Of course that’s the good part of being the godless left. You don’t HAVE to maintain or live up or down to anything. Just do whatever you like and let er rip. No one outs them, they are all out. Down and Out but Out none the less. NO standards means no sin or evil counts for or against you. Just do whatever seems right to you. It's ok there is no God.

I try to live my life with integrity and who I am. I try not to put on an act. I do sometimes but for the most part I yam who I yam.

The problem with spiritual greatness real or imagined is that you must live a life which no man or woman can ever really live. Only one man ever did and they crucified him. Oh a few poets, a few poor preachers, a few artists get close. But most of us are very flawed.

The fault isn’t Haggard’s per se. It the environment which doesn’t allow for transparency.

He must have often screamed inside, “I’m a horrid sinner, I need help, help me”. But he had too much to lose. The world, the flesh and the devil had him in bondage. And he had no one in his life he trusted enough to tell the truth to. No one he could confide in. THERE is the real crime.

I walk in Pentecostal circles. Many major leaders in these circles live pretty lavish lifestyles. They live pretty high on the hog. Caddys Rolls’s and who knows what.

That’s not true of all. Pastor Schmidgall of Calvary Church who earned a decent but not extraordinary salary lived in the same simple house for 30 years, drove 5 year old used cars, and didn’t take a lot of lavish vacations till the day he died. He always parked the furthest from the door on Sunday mornings so visitors could find a place. His successor now earns nearly 4 times what he did. I’ll bet he has a dedicated parking place.

Pastor Dan of First Assembly never TOOK a salary till the day he died. Oh, they paid him one, but he saw to it that it all went back. Not many people know this. He made money on the side buying and selling vehicles, stocks, and a few other investments. His successor will earn double what Pr Dan did or more.

I want the men of God in my life to make good money. I want them to live comfortably. I don’t want them to starve. But, when you reach a level of “Prosperity” as Ted Haggard did the need to keep the mask on and avoid transparency is driven by the fear of loss of lifestyle. So, I would rather that the men of God I associate with live fasted lifestyles by choice. I don’t have to worry about them so much. This is not a keep the preacher poor theology but the deceitfulness of riches can destroy anyone.

Well, Ted and his wife will now go thru a radical lifestyle change. The big house will go away. It’s over. I hope the marriage survives but the record on this is poor.

For what? I don’t get it. Meth and Gay Sex?

Neither does the pagan left. The cynicism they have shown is pure and unbridled hypocrisy. The glee they show at this says more about them then anyone.

Would I like to be in well-paid full time ministry? Sometimes. Mostly not. No one can fire me but Jesus. I can tell anyone the truth. I’m dangerous. I care too much about the kingdom of God to allow things to go too far. I have nothing to hide. I’m flawed. I am sometimes sinful. But, I know in whom I have believed.

I suspect Haggard does too. I’ll bet tonight will be the best night of sleep he has had in a long time. The pressure’s off. Yes, his former life is over, I don’t know about his marriage. But this is a warning shot across the bow. Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.

Boy did it.