Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I just returned from being chaplain at a week-long retreat/workshop to help struggling pastors. This was the sixth SHEPHERD'S CANYON RETREAT, founded by Dave and Barb Anderson in 2008. It is for the benefit of church workers and spouses, and is directed by LCMS psychologists and a chaplain. Limited to 8 participants, the retreat encourages attendees to be renewed and refreshed in the midst of whatever may be happening in their lives.

It's no secret that hundreds of church workers in crisis leave the ministry each year, and many of those might not do so if they had a place they would go for re-direction, such as SHEPHERD'S CANYON RETREAT. It may seem a bit costly - $4,000 per couple - but consider what it costs to train a fulltime church worker - over $100,000! And all those years of training! If many of those workers now considering leaving could be retained and renewed, God would bless both the worker and the church greatly.

All sessions are confidential and Christ-centered. SHEPHERD'S CANYON RETREAT is for pastors and other church workers, as well as their spouses. Participants review where they've come from, where they are heading, and how they can follow anew the Lord's leading in their life and vocation. People concerned about losing church workers can help. Please visit the SHEPHERD'S CANYON RETREAT website to learn all about their valued ministry: http://www.shepherdscanyonretreat.org/

I based one of my retreat devotions on 2 Timothy 4:11, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." That verse tells us Paul was giving Mark a second chance, after having had questions about his work. In that devotion, I used this theme, "O God of new beginnings and second chances, here I am again." Ours is a gracious God of new beginnings and second chances. He does not wish for one of His children to be lost and goes to great lengths to bring us back, to reclaim us for His own and give us a renewed life.

Ever wondered how you might help a struggling church worker? Urge him/her to visit the SHEPHERD'S CANYON RETREAT website and offer your assistance. Whatever you do, please pray for the work of SHEPHERD'S CANYON RETREAT. The future of the Lutheran Church depends on having dedicated workers and members.

O God of new beginnings and second chances, here we are again!

Monday, February 15, 2010


"Among the many beautiful posters made, there is one called VICTORY. It's a picture of a group of sailboats racing on the water, with their colorful sails billowing in the wind. The caption beneath it reads, 'You can't control the winds. The race can only be won if you have the ability to adjust your sails.'

"Pete Goss is an expert yachtsman whose dream was to win a solo, nonstop, round-the-world yacht race. His extraordinary story of triumph over adversity is told in his book, CLOSE TO THE WIND. Over a period of ten years, Goss made many personal sacrifices in order to achieve his dream, including selling his house and his car to help finance and build his boat, the Aqua Quorum." Finally, on November 3, 1996, he set sail in the race of his life, the Vendee Globe.

"He was doing well in the race, overcoming incredible challenges and dangers and managing high winds with waves as high as six-story buildings. Then, in the midst of the race, his radio picked up a message that 160 miles behind him, one of his competitors was in desperate trouble and needed help. At this point, Goss made the historic decision to give up his chance of winning the race, to 'adjust his sails,' and go the Second Mile.

"He turned his small craft into a deadly hurricane in an attempt to find and rescue a man he barely knew, a stranger lost on a life raft somewhere in the vast expanse of the ocean. Somehow, unbelievably, he managed to rescue the man and was able to complete the race. When he finally reached the finish line, Goss was welcomed home by a crown of 150,000 people who had gathered 'to cheer not the race's winner but its hero.'

"Pete Goss came in fifth, but he won the VICTORY by going the Second Mile. Real VICTORY is not about winning races. It's about living a life of significance. Most of us aren't faced with this kind of life-or-death choice, but we all have circumstances in our lives that try our patience and test our endurance, situations that require us to focus on something greater than ourselves." (from "THE SECOND MILE,"? pages 121-122, by Paula J. Fox)

God grant that when we are faced with such testing, we may, by His grace, endure.

"THE SECOND MILE" is available at: 

Monday, February 8, 2010


It was fun to see the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl this past Sunday, but it was touching to see the MVP Quarterback kissing his little son. That man seems to have some priorities straight. Knowing of the incredible demands on NFL players, even during the off-season, I hope Drew Brees will be able to spend more time with his family now. Curt Warner, retired QB of the Arizona Cardinals and father of seven, would be glad to give him pointers.

In Matthew 5:41, our Lord Jesus urges us to go the extra mile. I'm reading a wonderful little book, "The Second Mile," by Paula J. Fox (Inspired Faith, 2009). Using delicate phrases, focused examples, and excellent presentation, this little work gives a "Key to a Life of Purpose and Joy."  In its memorable chapters peppered with gorgeous photography, it has given me weeks of brief bedside devotionals. I recommend it highly.

On page 75 of Chapter Two, Ms. Fox writes that going the second mile"means following the higher law of kindness, generosity and love, choosing to treat people with dignity and respect, whether or not they deserve it."  Echoing the words of our Lord Jesus, she lists four points:

"To love your neighbor is the First Mile  ...to love your enemy is the Second Mile."

"To bless those who bless you is the First Mile  ...to bless those who curse you is the Second Mile."

"To do good to those who do good to you is the First Mile  ...to do good to those who hate you is the Second Mile."

"Praying for those who pray for you is the First Mile  ...praying for those who spitefully use you is the Second Mile."

She concludes that page with the words, "When the choice comes down to being 'right' or being 'kind,' the Second Mile means choosing 'the law of kindness." (Proverbs 31:26 KJV) 

Kindness seems out of place today. The factional rancor of politics, entertainment and even churches, leaves us wondering if kindness has been abandoned by civilization, buried in the landfills of useless information. If only we could use even a small part of the energy spent on attacking one another to being kinder, to putting the best construction on things, and to going the Second Mile.

That's the hope of all true "Saints."

Monday, February 1, 2010


For centuries mankind has used windmills to pump water, grind grain and saw wood. In the past few decades a new use for windmills has been found - producing electricity. My old family farm in Minnesota may once again have a windmill, a far larger, more technical version of the one we pulled down fifty years ago after getting our new electric well pump. The owner is considering whether or not to allow some windmill power turbines to be placed on that land. These will generate needed electricity.

But there may be a genuine "fly in the ointment." Some wind turbines have encountered a problem that can cause them to malfunction. While they work fine at lower speeds, at higher wind velocity the blades can get hit by bugs, and enough dead bugs on the blades can reduce their efficiency and electrical output. Some operators have found it is necessary to wash off the buildup of insects periodically to avoid decreasing turbine output. Doing this makes sense, for it is necessary.

In a very similar way, buildup of small sins in a Christian's life can become a real problem. Unrepented little sins can drag us down. All people are sinful. We all need regularly to repent and be forgiven. Lack of willingness to repent can harm our faith. That's why Christ's disciples urged each other to confess their sins often and be forgiven. 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Repentance means realizing sin, stopping it and asking God's forgiveness. Small unrepented sins can lead to big problems. They can rob of us joy and make us feel spiritually defeated. When we live only by our own energy and strength, we are running on diminished power. It's a losing battle. Satan loves unrepented sin, and he makes us think sin is acceptable, perhaps even virtuous.  "It's not really wrong - no big deal - everybody does it - don't worry!" he says.

Repentance makes sense, for it is necessary. When Christ forgives us, our life starts anew. He helps us see the reality of sin and helps us get focused on what is truly right and wrong. Best of all, He gives us joy and strength to live a godly life. Repentance keeps the bugs from overcoming us.

Sin drains our strength, but forgiveness restores it!