Power of One

An abandon bear cub clung to a tree after a fierce forest fire. He was scorched, scared, and an orphan.  Rescuers found him, restored him to health and named him Smokey the Bear who symbolized the devastating effects of careless human activity.  Out came the slogan ‘Only YOU can prevent forest fires.’ 

It stuck. People listened. Just one person had the power to make a difference in the world.

This is the power of one.

   One person makes a choice. One person prevents a disaster. One person saves another.

   It is the power of one. 

What difference will you make as a disciple of Jesus today? 

Will the world be safer, kinder, and more loving? Will the hungry be fed, the lonely visited, or someone lifted up in prayer?  How will you use your unique God given power of one?

 Most importantly:  who will know Jesus because of you? 

   Only you can grow another disciple. 

   Only you can live so others see Jesus.

   Only you can share what faith means.

Only you can share Jesus.  

   Only you can greet a new comer.

   Only you can  introduce yourself and ask their name.

   Only you can take them to coffee and turn a stranger into a friend.

Only you can make a difference.

When you embrace what you can do as ONE individual with the Spirit’s help,  one becomes many. The church body grows. And more people become one together.

We are in a cultural shift away from Jesus. Only you can change that.  How will you use your power of one to make a difference?

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Matthew 28:19



You Are Free to Go

Suitcases and clothes were strewn across the cabin floor, some lying open in their haste to be out of the way. The girls huddled on the top bunk, watching a corner of the cabin with fear.

“It was a Mouse!” they whispered loudly. “We don’t know where he went.  He came from under your bed.”

“Ugh! Now, I have to be an adult,”  I thought.

“I’m sure he’s gone. We’ll be fine.” I helped them put the suitcases back while watching for the intruder, but no luck. Time to just go to bed. 

Weary, I peeled back my blankets, ready to be done for the day. Staring back at me, in the middle of MY bed, were two big brown eyes, wider than mine. “Mouse!” I screamed. No time to be an adult. Bedding flew everywhere as I ripped out the sheets and blankets.

We chased it behind a mini-fridge. Locating my inner adult, I unplugged it so the girls would not electrocute themselves or Herbie, the mouse they endearingly wanted to name and be rid of at the same time. Of course, there he was…..hiding behind the coil. 

“Oh, he’s so cute!” the girls exclaimed, their fear suddenly dissipated.

After a few rattles of nearby objects, Herbie decided he had enough and ran into an empty trash can. Again, they all took a moment to admire him and declare his innocence. 

“Outside!” I decided.  One girl proudly grabbed the trash and marched out the door into the wilderness of the cold, dark woods. She gently laid the can down. Herbie froze. He was safer inside his new prison than alone in the wilderness, and he knew it. Three tries later, she dumped him upside down and Herbie was forced into freedom. Free To Go.

 

It’s hard to run to freedom when the shelter of a hard exile feels safer than the unknown. Sometimes, freedom comes with a push. 

Jesus pushed. The Son of God forced the hand of evil to hang him on a cross. Suddenly, generations of suffering pounced upon Jesus, a lifetime of darkness and pain drawn to die on a cross. Then, our Messiah took that suffering to the depth of despair, crushing death with a resurrection.  The exile from God’s presence was broken. 

 

God so loved the world that God’s presence returned to the people, first as Jesus and then as the Holy Spirit forcing us into a life of freedom through Christ. Enough suffering.

You are free to go.   

 



The Watch

Something prophetic happened before I was born: Detective Dick Tracy, cartoon extraordinaire, donned the watch of the  future, a two-way talking device. I coveted that watch! Imagine talking to people through a hand-held, portable device and be “in the know” at a push of the button. It was ingenious! It was the future!
 
The adults were quick to remind me, “It is just pretend!” Bubble blown.
 
Yet quietly, the bubble of progress re-inflated. Industrial engineer, Jony Ive, designed a detachable, portable device intended to work with the already popular cell phone. He strapped it to his wrist and the Apple watch was born!
 
Yup, the Dick Tracy watch of the past made a come back!
 
It’s hard to imagine the future and impossible to stop it. We can deny it or be ready to embrace it. Fortunately, for millions of people, John Ive embraced it. The mission was communication. The method was a watch. John Ive blended both to
embraced the future.
 
So did Jesus. God sent Jesus to shout out to the whole world that God was here! Jesus passed that message on to the Church and sent us on a mission to tell everyone. Yes–a Mission! 
 
The Church is Dick Tracy’s watch on steroids. 
 
The message is the same as it was since the resurrection: Jesus Christ is Lord! Which means the Kingdom really is breaking through our world. Can I hear an AMEN?!
 
That message is unchanging but the culture is not. How we communicate, worship, and structure the business of the church is dynamic. Those who embrace the communication own the culture.
 
Jesus did not set up committees, boards, or a hierarchy. Seriously…he did not. Jesus prepared people through planned discipleship to share the message with just one mission: Multiply. 
 
The message and mission are timeless. The methods are not.
 
To complete our mission, we must communicate within a culture that keeps shifting. Technology is constantly inventing the next thing. Changing our structure to a single board, adding a band-led service, and communicating online are methods meant to embrace our changing culture.
 
The church is God’s tool that communicates to new disciples this simple message: Jesus Christ is Lord. How we do that is the work of the church.
Thank you to everyone who came to hear, discuss, challenge, and embrace the noble past of this congregation at the Town Hall on January 28th. What began as a building over 50 years ago was anchored in the witness of people just like you preparing for the future.
Yes, Dick Tracy, the people of LeSueur UMC are strapping the future on their wrists. May the Holy Spirit guide our imaginations and give us courage to follow our mission. 
 
The message is relevant: Jesus Christ is Lord.
 
Our mission is simple: Go and make new disciples-Multiply.
 
Go boldly into the future, my friends.
 
Pastor Terri


It’s the Little Things

It’s the little things.  My glass coffee press broke!  I loved the coffee it made-strong and hot, but I could not find a replacement. Instead, I abandoned it and grabbed a fresh brew at the coffee shop on the run. It wasn’t the same as slowing down and sipping java while still in my pajamas, but it was good enough. Like a real Minnesotan, I rationalized that the added chaos in my life was normal. The god of java was more important than time.

Small gods consume us—we settle for chaos when we long for time.  We live vicariously through social media, but long to create our own memories.  We let small gods rush us from here to there and anywhere but home, even on weekends. The small gods are more important than time.

We obey the small gods and our Christian souls run empty. We want to grab a quick cup of Jesus for life on the run—but small gods keep us busy. We are chained to small gods who tell us chaos is normal!  STOP! That’s exactly what small gods want us to believe! WRONG! God intentionally sent his Son to fight the chaos of small gods, rescue us, and defend our right to live in God’s time, including a healing relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peach who restores our soul– and sanity.

I boldly made a decision to grab my mocha and Jesus, to purposely carve out my God-given time for what really matters in life! Fight the small gods with intentional God-time.  I got my morning devotions and coffee back–now in a new insulated, non-breakable coffee press. I stayed in my pajamas and talked with God. Prayer time was amazing, who knew? I carved out family time and WOW–my soul filled faster than my caffeine levels. Imagine that.

This is the Gospel’s secret to a happier New Year: dump the small gods. Worship the big One.  Carve out God-time every day: read a few verses of scripture, talk to God in a private space, worship with your family, volunteer for Jesus, fill your head with God-stuff, give to the ministry of the church… BUT… above all else, take deliberate steps to dump the small gods! Get your life back, your family, health, finances, and yes—definitely your soul back.

It’s the little things that fill your life with goodness.

Have a happy and blessed New Year. 
 
Pastor Terri


Memo from the Boss

“My Church ….”

  I read the words, but which one?  The little church where I was baptized or where my children were baptized? Is it the one down the road or the one that returned me to ministry? Hmmm.

Coffee helps me ponder, so I sipped some hot Caribou and considered an odd possibility… none of the above!   None of those beautiful churches were ‘my church’. Every single one of them belonged to someone far greater than myself, Jesus Christ.

My church is Christ’s church. I work for Christ, not the other way around. That makes Jesus Christ my boss! I take another sip of Caribou smiling at the thought of my next T-shirt: 
I work for Christ.
 

Wait! What about the traditions, Sunday routines and décor, I get a say in them, right?  The coffee burns my lips.

Ask the Spirit. What the boss wants, the boss gets. If Jesus Christ need us to change directions, well, we do what the boss tells us to do. Change.

Be still my caffeinated heart! Change?  

Jesus tells us to find new disciples, so we find new disciples, any way that works. We get out of our pews and do it. If what we are doing isn’t working, we change to make it right. Jesus gets what Jesus wants, disciples. Jesus is the boss.

We change to find disciples, not change disciples to find us.

Church: The Spirit is poking us to find disciples, those who do not know Jesus. What’s working in this group? A 2nd

band-led service directed by a worship leader from the same demographic group as the missing. It’s not my style, but then again, it’s not ‘my church.’  The Boss gets what the Boss wants, disciples.  Our job is to respond. We pray, plan, budget, pray some more and do what the boss wants, multiple disciples.

Jesus, you are the Boss.  It’s not ‘our church’, but ‘your church.’  Show us what to do.

Time to share the Caribou, folks.  There’s a work order in our pews.
 
Pastor Terri 


Dear Atheist

Dear Atheist,

I overheard you the other day, proudly proclaiming the end of God.  You were pretty certain of that ‘fact.’  A couple of your tablemates nodded in mutual defiance, but the others looked away.  They were uncomfortable with your ‘facts.’ No, they did not speak up.  They let it slide by and quietly claim their allegiance to the invisible God they seldom meet, but still believes, exists….. just in case. Maybe that is why you wonder if anyone really believes in God.  No one has ever shared their story with you.  Pity.  Their stories make doubt seem doubtful.

You said religious people are hypocrites, showing-off their goodness. But, take this from the pastor who knows, they come wearing all their faults, worries, and guilt. No, they don’t shout these from the pews. Most keep their faults to themselves. But I bet you do, too?

Folks come to Jesus like a patient goes to the doctor–to find healing and peace.  It seems healthy, forgiven Christians may actually live longer than atheists.  Maybe forgiveness, hope, and a new lease on life are good for the body as well as the soul?  Staying connected to Jesus is how we stay sane.

So, let me confess the truth: we Christians mess up more than we succeed, but this world needs us to keep trying. Why? Because–there is more to life than our cell phones and political stances. The world need us to be the Jesus we follow-to treat people with dignity and respect, love the unlovable, and be the peace.  Jesus came out swinging with love and healing. What a contrast to the world today.  Like I said, we don’t always get it right, but wouldn’t it be a better world if we did? 

I’ve learned over the years that most atheists are really angry agnostics, indifferent Christian who struggle with the church people who failed them in the past. Jesus isn’t fond of their actions either, but he is willing to forgive them.  Are you willing to forgive?  Is that what is keeping you away from Jesus?

Yes, some folks are not fans of the church—at least the one they think  they know.  They don’t feel welcomed, don’t fit into the homogeneous crowd or haven’t been there for so long that it is just plain awkward to jump in now. I wish they would, because we are trying hard to change that. 

So this is what I’m going to ask my folks to do—share their story with you, explain the crazy time that God found them, or how their faith carried them through when belief in humans failed.  I want them to share how they try to love like Jesus and how they fail, but they try again.  I want them to share how Jesus takes hold of their soul and gives them the courage to stand up to injustice, fight bigotry, love diversity, and find peace in loving the stranger. I want them to be bold in their faith and dare to show their passion so folks like you see the real Jesus, the One that also stood up to an unjust world and loved it anyway.  I want you to see forgiveness, transformed lives, and hope that defies understanding.  Most of all, I want YOU to see JESUS in them. I want you to see the invisible Son of God alive in the visible Body of Christ called the church.   

God’s grace will do the rest. 

From one who knows,
 
Pastor Terri


Speaking Mocha

I’m sitting in a Boston coffee shop sipping coconut iced coffee after having my first taste for such divine java at the Corner Drug store back home. Today, my table is smack dab in the heart of the Berklee School of Music in Boston.  I’m surrounded by student musicians fully immersed in their musical studies.  The young guy next to me is snapping his fingers to an imaginary beat as he explains music theory to the equally youthful gal directly across from him. They are whole heartedly engaged in the conversation, each contributing questions and comments that liven their spirits, laughing and exclaiming at the ideas they share. 

There is energy here, life in the quest for answers!  I love it! These beautiful people surrounding me are insanely curious about music- the language, story and construction of every note. It’s in their soul as deep as God is within my own soul. Their passion flames a fire which cannot be extinguished, even at the expense of their own sleep. It’s a passion that is God given, a quest for the language of the divine cosmos. Do they know it is a gift from God that drives them?
 
Then, there is me.  I’m reading about Jesus,The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter, which makes me an oddity here. No one here is talking about Jesus.
 

I speak Jesus. They speak music. We all drink coffee.  It should be a match made in heaven. 

Call me a dreamer, but I wonder what God would have us do to reach the people in the coffee shops in our world, or for that matter, the bars across the street?  What language do we speak?

I pray for the Holy Spirit to transform our tongues to the language of the coffee shops and the bars, to speak music to the musicians so that we speak Jesus to those without Jesus. May the Spirit of Pentecost ignite our passion as deep the musicians surrounding me; and may Jesus be the music that fills  the depths of their young souls.

Come, Holy Spirit, come. Form our tongues to speak the language of the people.
 
Pastor Terri

 



23 Easters Left

According to the trends, there are just 23 Easters left before  the mainline Protestant churches close their doors-for good.
 
This message is for you–the reluctant Christian waiting for someone else to lead the way back.    
 
If you are a reluctant leader, join the club. You are among many others, including me.
I wake up every day asking for instructions and wondering why God picked me, without a spouse and many obstacles to overcome. 
 
Moses was just like us, scared and too afraid to lead. Yet, Moses was the face of the people despite his resistance.
 
They could trust him and respected his wisdom– both he would deny.  Which is exactly why God chose Moses to lead. God wanted a leader  who listened to the Spirit’s wisdom instead of his own human understanding.
 
To deny one’s gift of leadership is to deny the One who gave it to you.  Peter learned the hard way. His denial was accepting his discipleship,  and ultimately his leadership. Are you Peter?  
 
There are many faces in a church-not one or two and all contribute to the Body. The more faces in diverse roles of leadership-the stronger the Body of Christ. 
 
We are now at a pivotal point in church history with an estimated 23 more Easters before mainline churches  close their doors. 
 
Do we lead or settle? Do we set the pace for a bold future or copy others just surviving? 
 
The cross was bold. The resurrection even bolder. Christ is boldest of all.
 
Can we, who put on Christ, be anything less? 
 
Dare to lead, let others follow, and never settle for less.
 
Put on Christ, my friends,
 
Pastor Terri


Dare to Lead

  Apple just announced that their stores will undergo a major shift from ‘selling’ Apple products, to eye-catching interactive labs geared to ‘using’ the products. They are leading the next generation forward, the same people that the church wants to reach– but cannot find. Apple knows.

Apple is adding conference rooms, larger screens, and transforming their Genius bar to the “Genius Grove” complete with earth friendly trees and catering to the computer generations who also has a passion for purpose. And, they are open for business when the people are looking for products-in the store or on-line.  Here’s the link to their progressive story to reach the generation that we want to reach: 

http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/25/15419398/apple-store-redesign-genius-bar-grove

Wait! If you are reading our traditional format–paperwe don’t have the technology to link you to that story.
You must ‘copy and paste.’

Wait—we don’t offer that either, unless you can get the downloaded PDF from our website and even then, maybe that won’t work.

We could send you a text, but are not set up to do that either. 

How about a group message from Facebook?

These are the facts: the world is changing faster than the local church wants to change.
Having a computer in the office doesn’t mean that we are using  technology to connect to the rest of the world.  We still connect by paper, including a newsletter that cannot keep up with the faster pace of our changing world.
 
We updated the website last summer, but it can and should be used for so much more to reach those looking for Jesus, not just information about who we are or upcoming events.  Social media is just an app away to connect those searching for Jesus.
 
Are we connected to the app?
 
Meanwhile, the techy people represent the unchurched who cannot connect to us, nor we to them.
We cling to our paper, books, worship time, designs, and even our traditions as if that makes us religious.  

See the problem?  

Meanwhile, Apple leads the generation that we are missing in churchThey lead and let others follow.
 
Jesus is progressive, forcing change,  connecting to the ones who are unconnected from ‘the church. He  commands us to do the same.

Beginning in June, expect to see  changes–the beginning of more to come:

  • Worship moves to 10 AM year-round.
  • Kid’s Church and the nursery continue year-round.
  • Expect a colorful monthly newsletter in your e-mail.
  • Receive current happenings also by e-mail.
  • Join small groups and mission events for soul searching purpose with Jesus.

Lead and let others follow.

Be bold witnesses to a resurrected Christ.

Pastor Terri.



PAID in FULL

 

I shuffled through paperwork on the way to my tax appointment.  Deep in the pile of papers only an IRS agent can love, a document caught my eye: “Paid in Full-Parent Plus Loan.”  It was the first big loan I took out to help my overwhelmed daughter pay her college tuition. I didn’t want to do it, but there was no choice if I wanted to keep her in school that year and my income was just a bit too much for grants.  Her meager campus cafeteria job paid $10 per hour, but that was barely enough to cover her rent for an old house near campus that she shared with four other students. The left over paid for food, books, a variety of school fees, and gas for her slowly dying car.

Paid in Full-the relief was in my hands! Done! Finished! No more debt!

 As excited as I was, the tax guy didn’t care. He punched numbers into an on-line form to calculate the difference for another debt I owed –the government. Sigh, so much for my money… I handed him my plastic card for the difference and another debt was marked “Paid in Full.” 

When was it ever MY money?  Someone always wanted it, claimed it or needed it.  But there was this very persistent voice of God running through my head reminding me just who gave it to me to use in the first place. That’s right—use, give away, spend, and share for the Kingdom. 

 ‘I know God, but just once could I keep it all? 

 “Keep what you need-will 90% cover it?” God asked.

 “Well, when you put it that way.”  I humbly respond.

 While I whined, I realized that money was a small price to pay to help Jesus with the work of the kingdom on earth.  The investment price was steep and the set up costs exceeded what anyone on earth could pay. I looked at the cross sitting on my desk.

“That was quite a price to pay for a kingdom,” I said.

 “It wasn’t for the kingdom,” God replied. “It was for you.”

 “Huh?”

 “Without my children, there wouldn’t be a kingdom.”

 “So, why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t he just find us and drift back to Heaven?

 “My child, you were so entangled in the cosmic net of evil.  Jesus had to pierce the heart of evil to rupture its cosmic grip. Death was the only way into the soul of evil.  When Jesus rose to life that third day, my Son burst the chains of hell open and freed my children from certain death.  It was the price he paid to save you, a price paid in full.”

There it was–stamped on the empty cross–Paid in Full.