Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Well ... the
KFA Fantasy Football Staff Draft was today at noon. Unfortunately, I was driving back from Minneapolis at that time and had to set my draft on 'automatic.' So I took whatever the computer gave me when it was my turn. Very disappointing.

Not that I would have had a tremendously better team had I picked my own team members, but still ... you like to be in charge of your own failures. And I did place 4th out of 10 last year, which isn't too bad - for me. I guess I have someone (something) to blame it on if I totally bomb this year.

"Oh yeah - if I had just been here in person to draft my own team -- well -- just watch out, then."

So ... I thought I'd share the team the computer picked for me. Here they are:
QB - Kevin Kolb (Phi)
WR - Calvin Johnson (Det)
WR - Anquan Boldin (Bal)
RB - Adrian Peterson (Min)
RB - Pierre Thomas (NO)
RB - LeSean McCoy (Phi)
TE - Tony Gonzalez (Atl)
K - Nate Kaeding (SD)
DEF - Philadelphia

RB - Jerome Harrison (Cle)
WR - Johnny Knox (Chi)
WR - Devin Aromashodu (Chi)
TE - Dustin Keller (NYJ)
QB - Matthew Stafford (Det)
K - Matt Prater (Den)
DEF - Miami

So. What do you think? And so it begins.

And be blessed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


One of the core values we believe God is calling KFA to is being a grace-filled church. We’re all in process at being grace-filled. Sometimes we blow it big time. On other occasions, we’re brilliant with grace. But it is in our hearts to be a church that increasingly becomes a place filled with the grace of God. The reason we should be that is because grace is something each one of us has already personally received. God has been gracious to us ... and so it should be a default attitude for our own hearts to be filled with grace toward others.

When people walk into KFA, the first thing that should hit them is the love and grace of God. Not the singing – if people want great music, they can go to Chicago or Milwaukee or Ravinia or the Symphony. What they should feel and sense is God - and His grace and love.

Isn’t THAT what wins people to Christ? It isn’t great programs. It isn't a great facility. It isn't great preaching. Nothing softens the heart more than when people sense the love and grace of God.

And if we don’t have that, what good is it if the oratory is skillful – if the preacher has it all together doctrinally – if everybody onstage has perfect pitch and never hits a sour note – if there’s all kinds of cool things happening with children and youth -- but there’s no passion for God – there’s no heart – there’s no love and grace?

'So God, help us not just stroke those who stroke us – and love those who love us – even pagans and those in the world do that – but give us a heart for people who are unlovely – even people who are against us … hurt people … wounded people … difficult people … different people … people who don’t have it all together … people with broken hearts … people with damaged emotions … people with crushed spirits.

That’s ALL of us in some way, isn’t it?

God, help us see people the way You see them. Help us not to be small and just see what people are doing on the outside, but give us an understanding so we can pray and serve them better -- to cry over our city the way YOU did over Jerusalem …

God, give us a grace-filled spirit … even in the face of opposition and unkindness and judgmentalism … even when there is nastiness … fill our church with grace. Take away harshness and the remembering of wrongs … take away unforgiveness ... so when people come into our church – even before they hear the singing – even before they hear the message – give them the sense that You are present because they can see Jesus manifested in the grace that fills the place.


And be blessed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


It's bittersweet today. Saying 'goodbye' to our youngest daughter as she leaves for North Central University for her sophomore year tomorrow. It's a lot different than last year - for all of us - but it's still sad seeing her go. Very proud of the young woman she is turning into.

She's taking her car this year which is a whole new set of 'fingernail biters,' but I know she'll be fine. We got her a GPS as a way of saying, 'Way to go ... you're going to be OK.' She is, right? Going to be OK, I mean?

As a way of celebrating tonight, we roasted hotdogs outside over a fire pit. It was something we've been wanting to do all summer but we waited till the final night together to do it. I found some sticks in our woods and we did it the old-fashioned, primitive way. Two of the hotdogs fell into the ashes during the cooking but I was able to at least grab one of them really fast. One got totally charred and when we pulled it out of the fire, most of the stick broke off except for the little part stuck in the dog, one broke in half but we able to salvage it and two others fell into the grass as we were removing them from the fire. I wiped them off on my shorts so it's all good. Does it get any better?

The picture above is of the surviving dogs, including the one that dropped into the ashes. One of us ended up consuming it. We're not sure who. I think it was me.


And be blessed.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Well - just some fun today. It was a great time last night as about 35 of us went to
Lambeau Field in Green Bay to watch the Packers BEAT THE TAR out of the Indianapolis Colts in a pre-season game. We even had a couple of Colts fans in our group - fully decked out in bright blue - to our everlasting shame.

But the Pack smashed the Colts 59-24. It was a great game and some awesome travel time on our bus there and back talking and laughing with some awesome KFA-ers.

Never mind that I didn't get home until 3 a.m. this morning. It was still fun. I'm ready now for the staff Fantasy Football League. Our draft is coming this Tuesday.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


STORY ONE: I was having a conversation with our youngest daughter several years ago and I casually used the word 'typewriter' in the sentence. She straightforwardly and honestly asked: "What's a typewriter?"
"What's a typewriter? Seriously?"
"Yeah, Dad -- what's a typewriter?"

Our grandson, Elias, turned one less than 2 weeks ago (see August 13th blog) and we discovered he has this uncanny ability to pick up an iphone and slide the 'lock' button to the right to UNlock the phone. He is innately drawn to computers and other electronic-type devices - uncannily drawn to them.

F. Scott Fitzgerald writes in his story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," about the birth of a child named Benjamin Button who shockingly appears in mind and body to be a 70 year old man at birth (pictured above). He is fully grown, gray-haired and wrinkled. He possesses the wisdom and knowledge of a man in his later life. His parents, though at first struck with the dread of the situation, soon become acclimated to their son's condition. Over time, however, they discover something even more disturbing. He is aging -- in reverse. By the time he reaches his 18th birthday, he appears to be a man of 50. He stands taller; his skin is smoother; his hair browner. Eventually, Benjamin marries and has children, who in turn have children of their own. By the team he reaches his late 60s chronologically, he has the appearance and intellect of a toddler who is fast approaching infancy. Even more striking, Benjamin's very own grandchildren have passed him in their knowledge and ability to navigate the world. As they approach kindergarten and school, he is babbling like a baby.

The story is, of course, pure fantasy - thank goodness - and yet, it is an eerie parable of the age we live in.

I am alternately enamored and terrified by the savvy with which our kids - and grandchild - are able to navigate the latest technology. To many adults, the digital world is practically a foreign country where they are undocumented immigrants while their children serve as translators. I'll never forget watching the 4-year old stand on a stool in our church lobby and navigate the keyboard to 'check herself in' at the Children's Ministry Registration Kiosk.

This kind of shift marks the first time in history that parents have limited access to the world of their own children. Life has inverted. Adults are disappearing and children hold the power. Never before have children been able to lock parents out of more than their rooms. It appears adults are getting younger, but not in the way they have hoped for.

How can we REDEEM this fact and use it for the Kingdom so we don't lose a generation to the world -- but monopolize on what they love and are attracted to so the Kingdom can increase? If we manage it, then Christianity has a guaranteed future on this planet. If we don't ...

And be blessed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


There is a theology out there that claims the Christian life is one silver-lined cloud after another - just constantly soaring. It isn’t. Sometimes the Christian life is a dark cave. The making of a saint takes a lifetime. You may be the lowest you’ve ever been right now, but God is going to have the final word in your story. God is not going to give up on you - and neither are we.

This is one of the reasons I’m so adamant about small groups at KFA. It isn’t the only function of small groups -- but sometimes we just need a refuge. That’s one of the many things I believe small groups can provide.

I’ve heard people say, “Small groups aren’t for everybody.” I don’t believe that for a second. We are made for community. You just haven’t found the right small group that works for you yet -- and you need to keep trying until you do.

An author by the name of Chuck Swindoll talks about a buddy of his who became a believer a few years after being discharged from the Marine Corps. Chuck was shocked when he heard of the guy’s conversion because he was one of those people you almost never picture being interested in God. He cursed, he got drunk, he chased women, he gambled. The only time he used the names ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ was when he was mad.

But he came to Christ one day and not long after, Chuck ran into him. As the conversation turned to the man’s new salvation, he looked Chuck in the eye and said: ‘Chuck, the only thing I really miss is the old times the guys in our outfit used to have down at the base tavern. We’d sit around, tell stories, laugh, drink a few beers - man, it was great.’ Then he paused. ‘I just haven’t found anything in the church to take the place of that great time we used to have. I don’t have anybody to admit my faults to. I don’t have anybody to put their arm around me and tell me I’m still OK the way those guys did for me.’

And that makes my stomach turn. Not because I’m so shocked, but because I think I have to agree. The man needed a refuge - a safe place just to be heard.

There is a book called, “The Edge of Adventure,” and it reads:

“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation though, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than answers. It is an unshockable fellowship. You can tell people secrets and they don’t even want to tell anyone else. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”

With all my heart I believe God wants His church to be a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk. I’m beat. I’m done. I’ve had it.’ That’s why we push small groups so strongly at KFA - because sometimes ... you need a shelter ... you need someone to put an arm around you when you’re hurting ... you need a listening ear and some good counsel that small group settings can provide.

Our new small-group-tied-in-message-series called "FLAVOR" begins in 2 weeks. Don't miss it - and don't miss getting in a small group.

And be blessed.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Growing up, I never got a really good theology of the wilderness. That’s a place I wanted to avoid. If you had a friend who was in the wilderness, you thought: ‘Oh, boy. He must have taken a wrong turn. God must be punishing him for something.'

You could go online and find all KINDS of books about how you never have to go thru a spiritual wilderness. Read this - pray like that - say these words - skip this way - there’s a way out. And I’ll tell you ... a lot of that is anti-spirituality. It’s a cultural religion that lifts up happiness and personal comfort beyond where they belong -- to a place where self-actualization is the highest goal of life. That isn’t a Jesus-Gospel.

Jesus’ Gospel is a rugged spirituality where you sometimes find yourself in trouble. That happens so you have to rely on Him. If you’re never in trouble, you’re never going to sense a need for God.

Because when everything’s going all right and someone asks you: ‘What’s going on today?’ you say: ‘Well, I’m going out to dinner ... maybe catch a movie.’ But when you’ve just come back from the doctor and he tells you some news you don’t want to hear and then somebody asks you: ‘What’s going on?’ you’re not talking about the movies then.

When your wilderness is that your marriage isn’t going well ...

When your wilderness is that your parents are considering a divorce ...

When your wilderness is that your health is in serious trouble ...

When your wilderness is that the bank is calling again ... you become acutely aware of what is going on in your life.

The other thing that happens in the wilderness is, we desperately try to locate God. How many of us have said it when we’re in the middle of our own desert: ‘God, where are You? Where did You go?’

And God works powerfully thru His hiddenness ... because in the wilderness you’re listening ... really hard. You’re paying attention ... really hard. You hear every leaf rustle ... you hear every twig snap. And God, though He may seem hidden, still sees you - still hears you. Often it is His very hiddenness that grows us because we quit looking at the moment and we start looking at the season ... at the whole story ... not at this one emotional day ... and we start listening harder.

We start to trust that the hiddenness of God doesn’t mean He isn’t active. He’s breaking some things over here - He’s molding some things over there - He’s re-creating some things over here. And if we do all we can to avoid the wilderness, we’ll get to our 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s and have gone backwards because those times are meant to grow us.

And be blessed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I pretty much grew UP in church and you knew there was this certain question you were going to get asked at some point by your youth pastor or somebody. It was: ‘So, what has God been doing in your life lately?’

And I have to confess that I would often THINK when people would ask me that: ‘I don’t have the first CLUE!‘

Well ... THAT never sounded good. So, you learned pretty quickly that you needed to make up some stuff - because whenever you said, ‘I don’t KNOW,’ they’d give you that look like - that’s BAD. GOOD Christians are always aware of what God is doing in their lives.

So, I’d MAKE UP things. (Don't pretend you haven't done this.) ‘What is God DOING in my life? Oh, my goodness, where should I start? Ummm -- well -- ABUNDANT. Yeah. He’s doing some ABUNDANT stuff - and GREAT, too. ABUNDANT ... and GREAT. THAT’S what’s happening.’

Then I figured maybe I needed to make some stuff happen - have a spiritual experience -- maybe jump and shout -- get emotionally charged -- cry or shake a little -- if I could just get more Biblical KNOWLEDGE -- if I could KNOW more -- if I could out-SERVE somebody ... and FINALLY -- I realized God had been doing stuff in my life from the moment I began having a life with Him - that whole time He’d been personally at work in me -- doing the same kinds of things in ME that He’s doing in all of YOU who call yourselves followers of Christ -- conforming us to the image of His Son, Jesus.

So if you get asked the question: “What is God DOING in your life?” you can say, ‘He’s changing me into the image of Jesus.

Let's PRACTICE that together. Ready? I'll say the question -- and then you say, "He's changing me into the image of Jesus." (If there are people around you right now, I would seriously consider saying this in a low voice right now.)

OK. All set? Here we go ... "SO ... WHAT IS GOD DOING IN YOUR LIFE?"

Your turn. " ___'_ _________ ____ ______ ____ ________ ____ ______."

Very good. I LOVE IT. Let's try it one more time.


YOU: "_____'_ _________ ____ _______ ____ ________ ____ ________."

And then if they ask, ‘HOW is God doing that?’ then maybe you can say, ‘I honestly have no idea. Right now it seems like my life is totally falling apart. It's a train wreck, but I know God is at work.’

That is spirituality. It’s messy but it’s real.

And be blessed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Over this past week I have communicated to you our KFA mission statement and our KFA purposes (see August 17 and August 19 blogs).

‘Mission’ describes the bottom line for a church - what is the one main thing we are here to do?

‘Purposes’ describe the ‘what’ of a church - what are the specific things we should involve ourselves in?

While most churches will have the same general ‘mission’ and same general ‘purposes,’ because those things are already given to us in Scripture, our church ‘values’ may be quite different from the church down the way.

Church values are unique to each local congregation.

Church values are not doctrine - we already have that.

Church values are not theology - we already have that.

Church values are not purposes or mission - we already have those.

Church values are HOW we do church - the attitudes that make up a church - the heart behind what we do - the motivations. These are the things, if we stopped someone on the street and asked them, ‘WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THAT CHURCH OUT NEAR THE INTERSTATE?‘ This how we’d hope they would respond.

A few months back, we had a great time meeting with about 100 of our leaders. We posed the question to them: ‘WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE THE VALUES OF KFA SHOULD BE?’ Not, ‘WHAT ARE THEY RIGHT NOW?’ but ‘WHAT SHOULD THEY BE?’

That conversation and others like it helped us formulate what our church values should be - the heart and the how of KFA.

So here they are - our KFA VALUES:









Feel free to commit these to memory with us.

And be blessed.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Sometimes I 'disconnect.' My wife tells me I do all the time. I'm right there in the room having a conversation, and 2 minutes later she'll ask me something about what we were just talking about and I'll act like I'd never been in the room. It happens frequently (according to her).

Tonight it happened again - though not with her.

We drove to the nearest Baskin-Robbins - a personal favorite of hers - and I went in to get her customary order of 'two scoops of Jamoca Almond Fudge in a cup' and my order of a large chocolate shake. When I got inside though, I decide to forego the extra calories and just get something 'fruity.'

They had two 'fruity' things on the menu ... a Fruit Blend and a Fruit Blend Smoothie. I asked what the difference was and the guy told me the smoothie had ice cream in it. So I opted for the Fruit Blend without the ice cream. No problem.

They only had three choices for Fruit Blends ... strawberry-banana ... peach-banana ... and mango. I knew I didn't want mango, so that left the other two.

'I'll take a peach-banana Fruit Blend,' I said.
'Sorry sir -- we're all out of bananas.'
'OK. I'll take a strawberry-banana Fruit Blend then.'
Blank stare.
'Strawberry-banana Fruit Blend, please.'
'Sir ... we're OUT of bananas.'
'Oh ... right.'
'I can just make you a strawberry Fruit Blend if you'd like.'
'Yes, that would be great. Let's do that. Hold the banana.'
Another blank stare.

It could happen to anybody.

And be blessed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


On Tuesday, I gave you our KFA mission statement ... with a promise that I would follow that up with our KFA purposes.

Purposes are, quite simply, WHAT a church is called to do. MISSION is the overlying single principle that motivates a church to exist (see August 17 blog for that).

Biblically speaking, most churches will have the same mission - 'to seek and save lost people.' That was Jesus' mission, so it's ours too. Churches will just articulate that mission differently, using particular words to describe what they do.

Same with church purposes. The Bible tells us what they are already. Each church just has to figure out how they're going to say them. Here are our KFA purposes:


COLOSSIANS 1:9-11 ...

Discipling people to grow and mature in Christ



Using our gifts for the church and the world


JOHN 4:23, 24 ...

Praying, fasting, giving, singing, kneeling, bowing, meditating, journaling, sacrificing and doing all those things that ascribe worth to God.


ACTS 2:42, 44 ...

Becoming involved in small group life and meaningful friendships


EPHESIANS 1:17, 18 ...

Praying for doors of opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with everyone we see

Later this week -- our KFA values.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Several authors talk about the phenomenon of Irresistible Influence. There is even a book by Robert Lewis called "The Church of Irresistible Influence." Sounds like a good idea to me.

There is influence that spreads rapidly and then - just as soon as it appeared - it is gone. And there is lasting influence, which often begins more slowly yet succeeds and thrives thru persistence.

A lot of fashion, hairstyles, popular books and the like have made a big splash in society, but they have lacked the substance to affect any significant long-term changes in our culture.

Kingdom influence is the second kind. It operates gradually, based on the unchanging principles of God and on a timetable that encompasses millenia.

Four thousand years passed from the time Adam and Eve lost the garden until Christ came. More than 2,000 years have elapsed since Jesus walked here - and God's ultimate plan has still not reached completion. But His influence thru all that time has been growing, expanding, permeating human culture.

That is irresistible influence. It doesn't mean everyone on Earth will eventually enter His Kingdom, but it does mean that someday everyone will acknowledge His Kingship.

He is ultimately returning to take back the entire planet. Kingdom business then, has nothing to do with abandoning the Earth. We are in the business of influencing it. Irresistibly.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We had some amazing pastoral staff conversation today revolving around our church mission and purposes. Today, our MISSION. Tomorrow, our PURPOSES.

Our KFA mission statement is: "Making it Easy to Find and Experience God."

Now we're fully aware that it won't be easy for everyone -- there are things that hold people down -- things that get in the way of them and God -- decades-long hindrances that won't be easy to shake.

We're fully aware that there is a 'narrow' road which few will find -- and a 'broad' road that many will take.

We're fully aware that we are called to 'take up our cross DAILY and follow Christ' -- and that it isn't even the 'taking up your cross' part that is so tough - it's the 'daily' part.

But we're also aware that Christ said you would have to 'become like a little child in order to enter the Kingdom.'

We're aware that Jesus Himself said that His yoke was 'easy' and His burden was 'light.'

We're aware that James told the leaders gathered in Jerusalem that 'we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are coming to Christ' - that is, by adding extra rules, fences and boundaries that Jesus Himself didn't add. (That scripture - Acts 15:19 - sits on my desk every day.)

And so, our prayer and direction and hope is that everyone who calls KFA 'home' would live in such a way that people would notice the way we live and - by observing us - would find it easier to find God and experience Him - by our example.

Let's 'make it easy.'

And be blessed.


There was so much interesting e-mail, Facebook, and in person feedback on the last blog that I thought I'd capitalize on that today.

America is well known for - in fact, its very existence and formation dependent on - the original rugged individualism that set it apart from every other nation on the planet. The downside is that very same individualism is in large part responsible for the high failure rate of relationships today, including marriages. It's about what I want - what I feel - what I need - me, me, me, me, me.

A person so thoroughly shaped by individualism is simply not prepared to meet the challenges of the emotionally invasive experience of what we might call tribal living which includes but is not limited to marriage, friendships, job relationships and small group community.

In a purely tribal culture, identity is derived almost entirely from the complex interplay of relationships that make up the tribe. The question of: "Who am I apart from the community?" is almost never asked. In an individualistic culture like ours, identity is determined primarily by discovering the ways we are unique. We learn early on to develop boundaries that mark the place where others begin and we end -- or where others end and we begin. We seek to protect our personal spaces.

This creates some difficulty for potential community and small group life in our culture. While the thought of community is appealing, it can at the very same time feel constricting and invasive. We need others to help us thru the narrow passageways of life, yet relationships in and of themselves pose their own challenges.

The group member who talks too much during gatherings.

The group member who seems overly needy.

The member you are drawn toward to be closer friends, but who doesn't seem to want to have a conversation with you - in fact, seems to avoid you.

The member who seems to know the answer to every question and dilemma in the lives of those present. 'SHUT UP!' is what you're thinking. Come on. Admit it.

It's too easy for group bonds to dissolve, freeing us once again to step back into the fresh air of autonomous individualism. We always seem to be looking for that idyllic tribe that will ease some of the loneliness, give us greater fulfillment and restore valuable human contact.

Are you aware of both your impulse TOWARD community and an AVERSION to it at the same time? Yes. Join the crowd; but don't give up on it.

And be blessed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I think the biggest relational problems I've gotten into in nearly thirty years of church ministry have been since the discovery of e-mail. See if this has ever happened to you ...

Occasionally I have received an e-mail from someone who - very often unbeknownst to me - has been offended by me in some way or another. Typically, the e-mail from them begins in a restrained manner (though not always), but soon devolves into unfair allegations, comments easily read as veiled insults ... even personal attacks. Sometimes the tone has been curt, accusatory and occasionally it employed the use of the dreaded ALL CAPS -- which I'm told is the universal e-mail sign for yelling (though not always).

I will not try to hide the fact that sometimes I am hurt by these kinds of e-mails ... sometimes deeply. Most often the accusations are false (though not always) ... or there are motives assigned to me that weren't there ... if nothing else, it was conveyed with a lack of common courtesy.

Usually I spend several days pondering a response (though not always). Then I have spent considerable time crafting a point-by-point response refuting the grievances -- to which I also have added my own list of grievances (though not always).

A couple of times I've actually shown my e-mail response to a friend just to make sure I was 'in line' before I hit 'SEND.' The wisest response I ever got from a friend, after reading my intended response, was: "And why were you planning on e-mailing this person back rather than just talking to them in person?"

"Er ... um ... well ... I wanted to make sure I had my thoughts clearly and fairly spelled out -- and -- um ... writing down my thoughts just helps me articulate better -- and -- well ... I'm not that good on my feet -- and besides, they e-mailed me, so it seems only fair that I respond the same way."

All baloney. E-mail and other text-based communication are designed for efficiency and because of that reason, are severely handicapped. Intonation, body language, opportunities for mid-stream clarification are all stripped away despite our greatest efforts to communicate clearly. In fact, the chances of e-mail mis-communication in a conflict setting approach one hundred percent.

One person said, 'Using e-mail to mediate conflict is like baking a cake without a mixing bowl or an oven. The very ingredients that make reconciliation possible are missing.'

So, I have decided to respond more face-to-face these days (though not always). Usually it just works better (though not always).

This experience of e-conflict is growing more common. Actually a ton of time is spent bent over computer screens analyzing offending messages for verb tenses, parsing of words and leaps in logic.

Jesus was way ahead of His time on this. He said: "If your brother sins against you, go show him, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother." Maybe if Jesus were to update this teaching today, He might add a new emphasis: "If your brother sins against you, DON'T EMAIL HIM ABOUT IT (yelling 'mine'). Instead, go directly to him."

Let's lose the trend of throwing stones from a safe distance. Not only is 'anonymous intimacy' becoming popular in our digital age, so is 'distant hostility.'

The Gospel is fundamentally about reconciliation. The best news imaginable in our broken world is the promise of broken relationships being restored. So delete that e-mail you've been poring over for the past 48 hours and go find that person who offended you.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Today our grandson, Elias Kevin Thulin, is one year old. Walking, verbalizing, riding one of our 'gifts' ... and everything else that goes with being one, including eager rich handfuls of cake and icing.

Happy birthday to our pride and joy.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I love the age in which we live --- Twitter, Facebook, Hulu, podcasts, iPads, Wireless internet, YouTube, Bluetooth, iPhones, Blackberrys, OnStar, Skype --- I can't wait to see what's next on the technological horizon.

But there is a paradoxical effect of mobile technology on culture. While it has the remarkable ability to bring those far away closer, it also has the capacity to make those near feel more distant.

Witness good friends -- homemakers -- living mere blocks apart. They talk every day on the phone ... sometimes several times a day. Yet, partly because of their proximity, they rarely actually see each other. It's been two months since they've had time to physically get together, yet they chat via AT&T every day.

I was at lunch with a friend awhile back and right in the middle of the lunch he answered his bluetooth. I didn't realize his phone had rung -- I was still talking to him in between chews -- but before I knew it, he was talking to whoever on the other end of his ear. In that moment, he was transported electronically, leaving me to dine on my tuna melt by myself. At least I got to hear half a conversation --- and I enjoyed watching him laugh at a joke that was evidently extremely funny.

The near becomes far, and the far are brought near.

We deeply desire connection and community in our increasingly nomadic existence, yet we wander around our personal worlds, glancing off other digital nomads without ever knowing or being known. It is a condition we create with the smallest decisions. But it is just as easily undone.

I was sitting with a different friend at lunch on a different day. His cell phone rang, I stopped talking and said: 'You can get that if you need to.' Without blinking or even looking at his phone, he said: 'You took the time to get together with me. Whoever is calling right now didn't. Now, what were you saying?' He just chose to be present where his body was.

Not that long ago I sat with another friend at lunch - yeah, I do a lot of lunches - he had a spouse who was threatening to leave him. We cried together and I offered a glass of water and put my arm around him. Eventually he talked and I listened. He had a lot to say; I had nothing.

In the middle of this darkness, I did not feel hopeless. If anything, I felt a renewed sense of commitment to help however I could. That response is hardly a reflection on what a good guy I am. It simply shows that I'm human. It is quite possible that the needs in some far-off place were a lot greater than my friend's needs sitting across the table from me. But I wasn't at some far-off place. I was there.

And here YOU are. There are needs galore in your own backyard. We do what we can, where we are at the moment, and watch the world change life by life.

And be blessed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


It was awesome to present certificates and velvet-covered bricks to another batch of graduating Men's Fraternity guys this morning at a local restaurant. Most of their wives were present and standing beside them hand-in-hand to witness the ceremony. So far we have graduated about 45 men from Men's Frat -- learning about authentic manhood and crafting their own individual Manhood Plan to direct the rest of their lives.

It's been an honor and privilege to be involved in the lives of KFA men in this way.


And be blessed.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I often reflect on and reconsider the amount and level of transparency I put out there - in my messages - in my counseling sessions - in my conversations. Sometimes Joelene will wisely caution me that I might have gone too far. I probably do now and then.

I have had a belief that great leaders instill a sense of meaning and belonging in their followers by putting a personal imprint of who they are and what they stand for on their people. That imprint becomes a kind of common ground where the people collectively identify with their leader.

Leaders leave a mark by constantly and continually communicating their values and sense of mission. They tirelessly call their people to engage in the cause. They know people are easily distracted by the many pulls of life, so they're continually calling them back to the mission, back to their purpose for being. That's why I've tried to do over and again on this blog and will continue doing.

Part of the way I"ll do that is to continue being transparent so you can see where God has taken me personally in the past, where I am now, and where He is taking me future.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A few years ago Dove soap launched an ad campaign featuring a split-screen of a model's face. It was a 'before' and 'after' shot. "Before," meaning - before make-up, hair and post-production re-touching and re-re-touching. The extent of the re-touching on the 'after' shot was astonishing. The model didn't just reflect smoother cheeks and flawless skin tone. The size of her eyes was increased. Her neck was lengthened. Her limps plumped up. Her jawline completely modified. It wasn't really even the same woman. I'm not sure she would have recognized herself in the 'after' shot.

I will confess of late to having a pre-occupation with myself -- maybe it's what happens when you hit the '50' mark, I don't know. Several on our staff are big work-out guys and we have a lot of fun kidding each other, talking P90X and comparing 'muscles.' I can't keep up and I need to stop trying.

Image has gotten out of hand. It teaches us to scrutinize ourselves and others. Thinning hair, splotchy skin, love handles, stretch marks, graying hair and wrinkles become sources of pre-occupation, depression and great effort.

The funny thing is, Jesus never talked much about thick hair, ripped abs, youthful skin, bulging biceps or sexy legs. Paul never mentioned any of them either. They're not in the listing of the Fruit of the Spirit. I'll check again when I'm thru here, but I'm pretty sure they're not in there. And yet, our energetic passion and pursuit of everything on the surface seems to declare otherwise.

Think back to the last time you looked at a photograph of yourself in a group of people. What was the first thing you looked at? It wasn't the other people. It was you. And the scrutiny begins. "What are the other people in this picture thinking about me when they look at it?" Not really much need to worry about that too much. The other people in the picture aren't looking at you.

Maybe God was on to something when He commanded His people not to make graven images.

And be blessed.

Monday, August 2, 2010


In the words of George Gallup: 'A church rooted in the living Lord is a church that encourages people to move beyond their comfort zones and invest themselves in face-to-face, person-to-person, hands-on kinds of ministries.

I used to think I wanted to live on an island. Seems so romantic and -- well -- just flat-out cool.
Joelene and I were in Victoria, British Columbia in June -- on Vancouver Island. It really felt like a neat place to live. Same with other islands we've been on: Catalina Island, Washington Island in Door County, even those little islands big enough for a house that you see out in the middle of a river. Just seems quaint, serene, private and undisturbed to me.

For centuries, residents of Prince Edward Island, off Canada's eastern coast, enjoyed that kind of existence. Once described as 'two huge beaches separated by potato fields,' islanders were separated from the rest of humanity by nine miles of ocean.

From that disconnected atmosphere sprung Anne of Green Gables. Red-haired, pig-tailed, freckled, innocent. Anne became a powerful and defining symbol for the island's image. She was also fictional. Yet, it was her fame that attracted outsiders.

The government of Canada eventually built a bridge connecting the mainland to P.E.I. (pictured above). With the completion of that bridge came tourism. Unsettling, disturbing, noisy. Anne dolls, Anne potato chips, Anne t-shirts, Anne restaurants, golf courses, wax museums and rental bungalows.

One thing remains certain - with the completion of the bridge, the island will never be the same.

A church can be an island. Not only may it fail to construct bridges to the world, it may even doubt the necessity of such a costly and difficult work. Exiled from its true purpose, the church retreats, focused on programs and good images - all of which are helpful but also fueled by ongoing introspection. The walls of isolation soon turn into mirrors. Church members desperately needing to live lives of purpose end up just looking at each other.

Living this way, the church soon forgets which direction God has called it to pursue. On an island, the church is always lost.

Then someone - some well-meaning but dangerous dreamer - has the audacity to introduce a church referendum: to build a bridge. To go out there. All the way to them. And ultimately --- suddenly --- them is here. Such a connection will bring with it change, challenge - and yes, conflict.

Most church people just instinctively know: a bridge changes everything.

And be blessed.