The Best instead of the Worst

Posted on: September 10th, 2018 by Brad Peterson

I’m sitting up early Monday morning when I should long be asleep reflecting on the amazing comeback the Packers made against the Bears tonight.  I’m not up because somehow I’m so upset that I can’t sleep, more up because my face in burning from taking off the green and gold make-up I wore tonight as the last payout of Mission Madness from the spring (I wish I was joking or being factitious about the burning, but I’m not).

As I thought about the game, I thought of my wonderful host Kevin Bird and how at halftime he thought the sky was falling and the game was over, even though I said that if Rodgers came back the Packers would win (which was true.  There were witnesses).  I knew exactly how Kevin felt as not only was I predicting the Bears to lose despite a 20 point lead, but that I do that with all my sports teams.  I assume the worst case scenario.  In the past 24 hours I’ve declared the Cubs season over, the Northwestern Wildcats the worst team in Big Ten football, predicted a Bears loss, and figure that my next time out golfing I will play awful.  I’m a pessimist in this regard and I have to admit that it is starting to bother me.

Why do I always assume the worst? I don’t do that when I think about other people or situations.  I usually take the more positive angle, even the naïve one.  I assume that everything will work out for the best.  But when it comes to my sports teams?  Never.  Even worse, I don’t do it really well with myself.  I assume the sermon sucks, the presentation was bad, the Bible Study or confirmation less boring and uninspiring.  I feel like I’m always making the wrong choice and doing the wrong thing.  Why do I do that?  I wish I could explain it.  I’m a paradox, believing the best in others and the worst in myself.

This bothers me because I believe in a God of resurrection (and I’m not talking about Aaron Rodgers coming back from injury to beat the Bears).  I believe in a Savior who has risen from the dead.  I believe in a savior who told a girl to rise and a friend to come out from a tomb.  I believe in a Lord who heals the broken, lifts up the lowly, gives strength to the weak.  I believe in a God that offers love and forgiveness to all who call on his name, not matter what.  I believe in a Lord that tells parables of lost sheep being found and prodigal sons returning.  I believe in hope and resurrection.

Yet, I struggle to believe it in myself and I project that struggle onto my sports teams. We so often see the worst in ourselves and in others.  We look at the world and think it is going to pot and that somehow yesterday was better than today, forgetting that yesterday had just as many problems and issues as today does.  We so often see the darkness instead of the light, the terrible outcome instead of the positive one, the despair instead of hope.

My prayer for myself is that I might take the positive attitude and lens that I view others and apply it to myself.  To fret and worry less and trust in that promise of resurrection.  I hope you will pray for me in that regard.  And in turn, I will pray that if you struggle with seeing only the darkness instead of the light or if you keep diving deep into despair instead of grasping onto hope, that you might see the resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is your resurrection and life.  I will pray that your heart would be filled with hope, joy, and new life, that you will see the blessings and not the curses, the joys and not the sorrows, the resurrection and not the death.  I pray that we all can see that we can comeback from any deficit, no matter the score, because Jesus Christ is our Savior.  And lastly, I pray that my face stops burning!

This week, live as people of hope and resurrection.  For as it says in Psalm 30, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”

 

 

Youth Gathering Blog Days 3 through 7

Posted on: July 4th, 2018 by Brad Peterson

Day 3: Wednesday, June 27th: Space Center and First Mass Gathering

We started the day by putting on our Gathering wristbands, signaling that the Gathering was truly here. After enjoying some lovely breakfast pastries and muffins donated by Deli Express that were sent to our hotel, we met my friend Josh and his group from Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Eau Claire and headed to Space Center Houston. It seemed like half of the Gathering was there! It was packed and busy beyond measure, but that is the Gathering: lots of excited teenagers everywhere! We did have one bad thing happen on the way in which Kim’s van took a rock to the windshield, cracking it. We think we will be ok with it driving but it did put an interesting start on our day.

Once we got into the Space Center Houston we split up into groups and went exploring. We saw stuff about the planned trips to deep space and Mars, explored the International Space Station and what it is like to live in space, and much more. Most of the group ended up in the very long line for the tram tour of the Space Center. We saw where plans are being made and astronauts are training for upcoming missions, went into rocket park that includes a fully built and operational Saturn V rocket that was going supposed to take Apollo 18 to the moon, and much more. It was a fun day exploring this major Houston attraction.

Before we even left Space Center Houston, I ordered us pizza and wings from Papa John’s, which was delivered to our rooms. After gorging themselves on food, some kids went to the pool to swim, some hung out in their rooms, and at least one adult (me) took a nap. Then it was time for the first official item of the ELCA Youth Gathering: the Mass Gathering at NRG Stadium!

One of the things I love about the Gathering for myself is that it is one large reunion. I don’t have a big blood-relation family, but I have a HUGE Lutheran family and all day it was great to run into so many people I know and love, even people I haven’t seen in many years. I had people yell my name and run to me and I did the same thing to them. I know that throughout the week I will see more and more and I hope to run into actual blood family tomorrow when we are at Interactive Learning. One of the coolest was reunions was seeing some kids and adults from our Pine Ridge Mission Trip in the summer of 2016 who happened to sit in the section next to us at the Mass Gathering. An awesome moment.

Speaking of awesome: the Mass Gathering is an awesome experience every time! It took us a bit to get into NRG Stadium but once we did we headed up where my friend Josh found us a great spot in section 352, looking directly at the stage. Some went and got snacks, others talked and texted, and we enjoyed some of the pre-show music until it was time to get on our feet and rock out to God.

The Mass Gathering is a time of worship, of dance and song, of listening and thinking. It is inspirational. It pumps you up, makes you cry, and opens your eyes to the power of God’s love in Jesus Christ that flows from these young people. Tonight we danced to LZ7, sang with Ginny Owens, moved with the Gathering House Band, and were inspired by speakers like Bryan Stevenson, Rev. Tuhina Rasche, and Deborah Mouton. Even Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton, brought greetings and prayer. Our theme tonight was that God calls and we heard time and again that we are called to bring the love of Christ into the world to those who are forgotten and that we are called to bring about change and give hope to all. It was an awesome experience! I was so proud of how our kids fully engaged in the Mass Gathering and how they danced, sang, listened, and interacted with each other.

After making our way through the crowds we walked back to the hotel. That ten minute walk is so awesome compared to Detroit where we walked 30 minutes to get to a bus and then was on that bus for another 45. We debriefed the day, talked about expectations for our Interactive Learning Day tomorrow, and prayed. We look forward to another great day at the Gathering!

Day 4: Interactive Learning Day, June 28th, 2018.

The day started early as I drove some of my pastor friends over to a Kroeger’s grocery store to get some supplies. We picked up more fruit, water, some pop, and Chicken ‘N a Biscuit crackers. They kids have some weird tastes. They also wanted more close pins so that they could “pin” people during the Gathering.
After getting back and having Damien and Jered not only help get our stuff to our rooms but helping my friend Mara with her stuff, we headed out to the NRG Center for Interactive Learning. Interactive Learning is a time for out students to encounter God in a variety of experiences, both fun and educational, and a time to see God at work in a variety of ways. These experiences can be active or passive, quiet or loud, individual or in a group. Personally, this is one of the best parts of a Youth Gathering and a great opportunity for kids to really explore their faith and be challenged in the ways we look at the world.

Once we got to the NRG Center, we split off into groups so that the kids could explore the center on their own speed and time. Some of the experiences that stood out were doing a 360 Virtual Reality presentation about Malawi (our Companion Synod in Africa) and the important of crop diversity and management that is helping to improve people’s lives; exploring ways to stop human trafficking, hunger, and the plight of refugees; making bags for people in need; learning about our gifts using a Star Wars theme (I loved this one), making bracelets and enjoying a hammock village, and just visiting booths and meeting people.

One of the best parts of Interactive Learning is running into people, sharing swag, getting pins, bracelets, buttons, and more from organizations and individuals. There is a sense of openness, connection, and camaraderie among the participants. A variety of spaces were there for people to interact with each other and even an adult area for adults to take a break from their kids. This is sorely needed as today is a chance for both kids and adult to connect with God and each other without the other breathing down their neck. For me, it was again an awesome day to make connections with people I care about. I connected with my nephew Tyler early in the day, ran into former camp counselor colleagues/seminary classmates; saw many other colleagues, and ran into one of my dearest friends, Bishop Kristen Kuempel and her daughter Linnea. I haven’t seen Kristen in many, many years as they live in Washington and I hadn’t seen Linnea in at least 12 years or longer, which is sad since I was godfather at her baptism. I have to admit that I got a little emotional after seeing them and spending a few minutes chatting. It is a reminder that the Holy Spirit keeps us connected in love and friendship even when we rarely have a chance to see each other.

Kids grabbed lunch from one of the concession stands in the center or at one of the food trucks outside. Let’s say that the Starbucks was very popular. Some also went to the Gathering Store as well. We met up at 4:30 pm to do the bumper cars together and then headed out to go get in line to enter the NRG Stadium for the Mass Gathering.

As we waited to get into the Stadium, the Lord decided to give us a shower to cool us off. It also inspired the Gathering to open the stadium early so we got to go in about a half hour earlier than normal. We decided to go back to our same section, 352, and we all made it there safely despite groups of human chains attempting to clothesline or crush us (note: don’t move in a large crowd in a connecting chain. It is a danger to everyone. Have a plan for getting to your destination and communicate it clearly). Kids went and got some food and they helped me save seats for the group from First Lutheran Church in Cumberland. Per usual.

We had another Mass Gathering singing, dancing, and being inspired in our faith. Our theme tonight was “love” and we heard stories of how the love of God helped restore people, inspire faith, and change people’s lives. We heard from Caroline Meeker who came back from the brink of death due to anorexia when she was 9 years old and how the love of God restored her. The Rev. Aaron Fuller shared how God’s love has sustained him as a wrestling coach, Navy chaplain, and pastor and how that love changes lives. Deacon Erin Power talked about how the love of God in Jesus Christ showed her that the church is a place where is accepted and belongs. Marlon Hall brought the house down as he spoke of God’s love that brings resurrection and that love restores hope and that the love of God can never be taken away from us. He brought his small daughter Phoenix onto the stage as an example of God’s love and made most of our girls cry. We heard a lot of great music as well from the House Band and a drum and bugle band.

Once the Mass Gathering was done we headed back to the hotel where along the way I decided to carry Pastor Tim Schmidt, from First Lutheran in Cumberland, on my back. We debriefed the day, talked about tomorrow, and prayed. Tomorrow is Synod Day and also the only day they really get to sleep in. Thank you again for following us on this journey and many blessings to all of you!

Day 5: Thursday, June 29th. Synod Day

Today began with a run to Target to get stuff for the kids while those same kids had the opportunity to have most of the morning off. Some slept. Some swam down at the pool or laid out. Others just chilled in their rooms. It was a chance to recharge as we are at the halfway point of the Youth Gathering itself and the last time during the Gathering where we could sleep past 7 am.

We got together at 11 am to eat some lunch, which was make your own sandwiches, chips, fruit, and drinks. I left before the group as I agreed to help keep kids active before they came into the Grand ballroom, but everyone was doing just fine so my friend Mara and I just did crowd control. Kim & Tillie brought the kids down at 11:45 and they found spots to sit and Synod Day began with some songs.

The theme of Synod Day was Grace. We were reminded that grace is something we receive which we do not deserve and don’t ask for but we receive anyways. We were reminded that, because of God’s grace, we belong. There were fun games to get to know others and though those games we were put into groups of four where discussions happened. We heard God’s Word from Bishop Rick Hoyme who is retiring as bishop of our Synod on June 30th. This is the last thing he is doing as bishop. We sang, prayed, received the Lord’s Supper, and blessed Bishop Hoyme for his retirement. The kids sat on the floor while the pastor’s and chaperones sat in chairs and misbehaved! Synod Day is a chance for kids to connect with other kids from around the Synod. Let’s say that many pins were made and distributed.

After Synod Day concluded we had some time to chill and relax while we waited for the pizza and wings to be delivered to the hotel room. During that time, the group decided by vote to go back to our normal spot in section 352 instead of heading to the floor. After they devoured the pizza and wings like a pack of wolves who haven’t been fed for a few weeks, we got geared up and headed to NRG Stadium for the Mass Gathering.

We donned some glow sticks for our Mass Gathering time tonight and we heard some great music at the start from Rachel Kurtz which got the kids singing and dancing. Speaking of music, Tauren Wells blew the roof off the stadium and the kids asked if we could kidnap him and bring him back to Boyceville. I said no, but I better keep an eye on them!

The theme was grace and the freeing power of God’s grace for us in Jesus Christ and our speakers reflected that. Rev. Will Starkweather gave a powerful witness about how “there is grace for that” as he struggled as a teenager and young adult with harming himself. Elizabeth Peter and Jasmine Seguarra powerfully spoke of grace in their own lives. Michaela Shelley, who is living with a fatal disease, talked about how grace helped her to start a support group that touches people all over the world and gives grace to those young people suffering from horrible diseases. Our final speaker of the night was Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber who encouraged us to be people of grace and renounce the voices that so often stop us from living boldly and fully into the world.

The Mass Gathering ended with a great rendition of the song “This is Me” from the movie “The Greatest Showman” as 1,000 extras danced on stage and throughout the floor. It was a great way to end a Mass Gathering, but our night wasn’t finished. We had Communion Server training! We are communion servers Sunday morning for worship so we headed to the lower bowl for instructions. I went and got out packet and we report to section 106 where were are doing communion with a church from Maryland. We broke into teams and tried to figure out exactly what we are doing. To be honest, we aren’t fully confident but I know it will all work out in the end. It was weird to see NRG Stadium with all the lights on. We did a quick meeting in the concourse and the group headed back. Instead of going to my room, I went to another area for a farewell gathering for Bishop Hoyme. Then it was bed time. Tomorrow is Service Day so pray for us as we do service in Houston! Thanks for reading!

Day 6: Service Learning Day/Final Mass Gathering

Today we started nice and early as we had to be over to the NRG Center for our Service Learning at 7:30 am. Kim and I went and did a quick Kroeger run and also picked up McDonald’s for the kids for breakfast as a change of pace. It was a little close getting everybody ready and up but we did it and made it to our bus launch, which was bus number 17.

When you arrive at the bus launch they don’t tell you what you are going to do that day until you get on the bus. We were with a church from Stattford and we hung out for a bit until it was time to go. As we waited, some took the opportunity to actually wake up or get a little cat nap in. Being that it was the final day of the Gathering and our earliest morning since we left, tiredness was expected. Once we got on the bus, we heard what our project was going to be: working at the Houston Food Bank. The Houston Food Bank is the largest food bank in the United States, serving 800,000 yearly. Of that 800,000, only 3 percent are homeless, which was a surprising stat to us. We got instructions and then proceeded onto the floor to begin our work.

Our job at the food bank was to pack boxes with whatever category of food was that table. We got instructed in what we were doing and how to do it. We worked in groups of eight or more and at my table was Bishop Rick Hoyme on his last day as bishop of our synod. He gets very excited when Barry Manilow comes over the sound system. Each group boxed up items that had already been sorted and cleaned. Some had canned goods, dry goods, beverages, condiments, personal items, and more. There is a conveyer system around you that is bringing you the stuff to put in boxes, where you put your completed box, and an empty containers of the product you boxed up. Our kids worked really hard and other than Emma and Megan causing pop to spray all over them, we didn’t have any mishaps. There was great energy in the room as people helped each other and worked toward a common goal.

We worked really hard and it was taxing work. But in the end, we did some amazing numbers. 25,698 pounds of food as packed while we worked and that translates into 21,415 meals. A great cheer came up as we heard those numbers from Serena, a manager who at one time had to use the Houston Food Banks to survive. We took some pictures and then got our boxed lunches and headed back to the bus to go back to the NRG Arena.

When we got to the arena, there was a celebration of service going on with a variety of activities. However, with us having to be over to the worship service Sunday so early as communion servers, Kim and Tillie took many back to pack and get one more dip into the pool while PB stayed back with those that wanted to do stuff in the arena. After a few hours, they came back to get ready for the last Mass Gathering of the Youth Gathering.

We got loaded up into the PB’s van and headed out for supper at 4 pm. Though PB wanted Texas BBQ, no one else did so we split up between Jack-in-the Box, Five Guys, and Panda Express. After getting our fill, we headed back to the hotel and then walked over to the NRG Stadium for the final Mass Gathering. We again sat in section 352 and the groups from Cumberland and Eau Claire joined us. Much of the pre-Mass Gathering time was spent throwing snap chats to cute guys below us. Always an adventure with our youth! As we got closer to the start, the dancing and singing started and the kids woke up from the tiredness of the day as we learned that God’s Hope Changes Everything.

We heard inspiring stories of hope from Rev. Stephen Bouman, Carson McCullar (who the girls decided needed to be kidnapped and brought back to Boyceville), Joe Davis, Maria Rose Belding, and Jamie Bruesehoff and her daughter Rebekah. The speakers were powerful and moving. The House Band was jamming it out and at one point we did a cool wave using our cell phone lights. Then it was time for the main act: Tenth Avenue North.

Tenth Avenue North rocked it. Kids danced, sang, screamed, hugged, and more. It was a great way to end our final Mass Gathering. We took a group picture from our section 352 as we won’t be there Sunday due to serving communion. We headed back to the hotel for evening debrief, instructions about Sunday, and the end of the Gathering. We are looking forward to the trek home but we will also miss the wonderful people we have met, the fun times we have had, and the hearing again about how Jesus changes everything!

Day 7: Closing Worship and the Road Home: July 1st.

We had an early morning wake up call so that we could pack the vans prior to the Gathering Closing Worship, reporting down to the vans at 6:40 am. We ate the last of our breakfast items and started the walk to the other side of NRG Arena to report as communion servers for the closing worship. We had on our white shirts and khaki’s, the required uniform to serve communion the world over (not really). As some have said, it was “khaki’s for Jesus.” We got over to the loading dock at 7:15 am, which was on time, but had to wait about 20 minutes before we got in. We headed over and picked up our stuff to serve communion which included an umbrella, bread, wine, grape juice, and anointing oil. Once we had everything, we had the long walk (it was a full walk around the stadium) to our section, 106.

This was the first time we would NOT be sitting in our normal section 352. We found our reserved communion server seats and got into our teams. Each team was five people and with sixteen people, I volunteered to go with the other church group in our section who had fourteen, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Aberdeen, Maryland. We took the time to get organized and attempt to figure out exactly how it was going to work, trusting the Holy Spirit would help us figure out how to get five people in a small space to serve communion.
Despite being in a different section, our friends from First Lutheran in Cumberland came and joined us so that Pastor Tim and I’s streak of sitting together at Mass Gatherings is unbroken over the last two Gathering’s. Since we were communion servers for the whole section, we were spread out over the entire section so we weren’t all together which was strange.

During the closing worship, we saw the mosaic that was made up of our pictures from the interaction center up front as well as the boxes from our Synod Day. We heard Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton tell us that not only does Jesus change everything, but that we can be the people that change everything. We sang our favorite songs and also heard a speech from Savannah Sullivan who is from the Young Adults of Global Mission of the ELCA who asked us if we were ready to live for this, to live for Jesus. Then came time to do the offering and since there wasn’t a formal announcement, some confusion occurred if we were to start but we got it going and the kids did a great job. Then it came time for the big communion distribution and the kids rocked it and made it work, even when people didn’t follow instructions. We communed each other and then took our stuff back to the sacristy.

One of the highlights of every Gathering closing worship is the reveal of the next Gathering. The place: Minneapolis, MN! So it will be a really close Gathering for us. I think we will drive there and not fly! 😊 Pastor Tim found out the place from his source ten minutes before they announced. We took our final group picture and then headed back to the hotel to get loaded into the vans. We stopped in Dallas for In-N-Out burger (so good) and made our way to Wichita, KS, pulling in just after 11 pm. Everyone was ready for bed. Monday we will get going early and get home.
It has been a wonderful Youth Gathering. The kids have been great and have fully participated in everything. They were really well behaved and got along well with each other. Huge thanks to Kim Guy and Jamie Tilleson for being great chaperones. Thanks for reading. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2. This Changes Everything.

Youth Gathering Blog Days 1 and 2

Posted on: June 27th, 2018 by Brad Peterson

Youth Gathering Blog

Houston 2018

Day 1: Boyceville to Tulsa, OK: The Beginning. June 25th, 2018

  Hello everyone from a Super 8 on the fringes of Tulsa, OK! I’m sorry I couldn’t get this out last night as the Wi-Fi isn’t the best here in the hotel. 

 We met at Trinity at 5 am somewhat bleary eyed but very excited to begin our adventure to Houston.  I was impressed and shocked that everyone was on time and ready to go, which is a miracle of Biblical proportions when it comes to High School youth. The kids picked up snacks, their YG packet, and after a prayer loaded into the vans to start this journey. 

  Along the drive kids watched movies, slept, sang, danced, and consumed various forms of snacks that weren’t good for them.  Occasionally they slept on each other or in my van when a song came on my 17 hour playlist yelled out “Turn it up PB!”  We made two stops for gas and breaks before our first goal, Kansas City, MO.

  Anyone who knows me knows that I have an unhealthy obsessions with bacon, Star Wars, and BBQ.  Kansas City is one of those BBQ mecca’s in this great country and the ribs that I make are KC style.  So, for lunch, we stopped at an institution, Arthur Bryant’s in KC. 

   I think they were pretty amused to see this large group of kids in green shirts fan out to the tables.  I tried mightily to figure out what everyone wanted and then went up to order.  They were so awesome in that they helped me order in the easiest way possible for them (and cheaper for me), then for our convenience told me that they had a large room that we could use if we wanted.  It was great!  We ordered large amounts of ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and turkey along with fries, baked beans, potato salad, and cole slaw.  It was a feast to make a Brad sing for joy (instead we sang our grace).  Everyone loved the food and we boxed the leftovers for later, which I ate in this very room I’m sitting in last night for dinner.  Only meat.  Others took the potato salad and McKenna and Jaslyn really wanted the fries. 

  After eating our fill of glorious, glorious BBQ (mouth salivating still), we headed to the Kansas City Zoo.  Little did we know prior that this zoo only stays open till four pm, giving us just over two hours to explore.  We split off into groups to see gorillas, penguins, zebras, giraffes (there was a baby), free-roaming kangaroos, tigers, and more.  The KC Zoo is a huge place with a tram, train, and even a ski lift.  It is a very nice zoo and we had a good time.  It was also a nice introduction into the heat we are going to experience this week and all of us were sweaty and hot by the end. 

  Once we had finished exploring our animal sides, we piled into the vans to get to our sleeping point of the this leg, Tulsa, OK.  Many of our weary warriors slept a large part of this leg but at least in my van as we got an hour out, the group perked up and got a little silly (gummy worms may have been tossed at each other).  We checked into the hotel, split off for some food (some ordered pizza, others wanted McDonald’s, some wanted ice cream, the pastor ate all the leftover BBQ).  We turned in for bed to rest up for the next leg: Houston! 

   We ask that you continue to keep our group in your prayers in the midst of this journey!  Thank you for your support!  God bless!

 

Day 2: Tuesday, June 26

Today we started out bright and early to leave Tulsa and get to Houston. Kids were tired so there was a lot of sleeping early on. An hour out we got a phone call from the Tulsa hotel saying a phone had been left in a room. Of course. They agreed to send it to Houston for us. 

  We made a stop for food and kept on trucking, entering Texas. We made it through Dallas and were in the home stretch to Houston. My GPS noticed a massive slowdown on the interstate so it re-routed us on back roads through the Texas countryside. There was some beautiful country we drove through and it was a nice break from interstate highway travel.  

   We pushed through to Houston and our hotel, the Crowne Plaza NRG.  We are literally across the street from NRG Stadium where the Mass Gatherings are so we will be able to walk to everything.  The entire Synod is in the hotel so we will see all sorts of people we know.

   Check in at the hotel took a bit longer than we wanted but everything got squared away. We took a brief moment to get registered and grab our wristbands for the Gathering itself and hauled all our stuff to our rooms. It was great to feel like we were finally here in Houston after all the hours in the car. 

  After a quick meeting and changing we headed to Galveston and a visit to the Gulf of Mexico and some beach time. PB’s van was perilously close to running out of gas but we found some before disaster struck!  PB was getting a little nervous!

   We went to Stewart Beach in Galveston and it is a big, beautiful beach.  The sand is really fine and the beach was not crowded at all.  We had about three hours of daylight or so left and so many jumped right into the water, though some relaxed on the beach.  Nearby was a McDonald’s and a gift shop so many of the group traveled there for souvenirs or a quick bite.   

   The ocean breezes helped to mitigate the heat and the humidity and there was a peaceful tranquility looking over the ocean, feeling the sand between the toes, and watching sea gulls dive bomb Chesney and Megan as they threw the remains of their McChicken sandwiches into the air.  We stayed until the sun went down and though we didn’t want to leave, hunger and the desire for a nice bed won the day.

   Once we entered Texas, we kept seeing this restaurant called Whataburger.  It looked like a local chain of hamburger joints so we decided to try it in Galveston.  Though not as good as a Buckshots hamburger from home, it was good enough to get some food into our stomachs. We ran into some strange slowdowns on the way back and traveling in the dark meant that it was impossible for PB and Kim to keep their vans together, yet we still pulled into the hotel at the same time.  Please make sure you ask Kim about her experience at the toll booth and the christening of PB’s nickname for this trip.

   We cleaned out the rest of the stuff from the vans and met in PB’s room for evening devotions and planning for the next day, which will be the first official day of the Gathering.  Follow us at the Mass Gathering starting at 7:30 pm at www.elca.org/gathering.  Thank you for your prayers and thoughts!

Lent

Posted on: February 19th, 2018 by Brad Peterson

Lent is upon us on Wednesday and many people have traditions during Lent.  Some people give up stuff, some take up stuff.  I’ve always been a taking something up person as I tend to not feel closer to God NOT doing something.  This year my goal is to work out for 30 minutes every day during Lent and to, per my personal tradition, read Martin Luther’s “Freedom of a Christian.”  I also really enjoy all the meals we have at Trinity during Lent for it is a great way to be strengthened in faith through conversations with each other.

Lent is a chance to reflect and deepen our faith.  It can happen through worship, prayer, giving generously, repentance, and a lot more.  This journey is a personal one and I believe that there is no right or wrong way to approach.  Many love our Holden Evening Prayer service, to be a part of a different worship experience and witness the talent of our young people who lead it.  Coming to that service is enough.  Some give up things like chocolate, alcohol, red meat, or pork or a hundred other things.  Some take up things, like extra prayer, new Bible readings, or a thousand other things (like watch all the Star Wars movies!).  Whatever it is, it should be something that fulfills you and affects your faith in a positive way.

I’m going to work out every day because I know that part of my stewardship is stewardship of my body, which is something I’m not good at maintaining. I’m hoping that by doing this not only will I feel better physically, but emotionally as well and that I have a more positive attitude towards myself.

May the Lord be with you on this journey of Lent.  I hope to see you in worship on Sunday or Wednesday and to hear about what you are doing to strengthen and deepen your faith.  May God bless you this week and always!

Out of the Depths

Posted on: April 11th, 2017 by Brad Peterson

  1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.  Psalm 130

In preparation for the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball Season, I have been re-watching every game of last year’s World Series (thank you Kevin, Wendy, Hayley, and Megan Bird for the gift of the DVD’s).  It has been fun to re-watch the games, especially with some time that has passed.  But I also remember how stressed I was and how, after the Cubs got down 3-1 in the Series how just awful I felt.  I remember thinking it was over and that there was no hope left.  Re-watching it, some of that despair came back even though I knew the outcome!

I can admit that I can be a fatalist.  In other words, there are times when, especially when dealing with myself, when I think things just stink and I’m worthless.  I rarely like a sermon, I also dwell on the bad shots in a round of golf than the good ones, I always think that any presentation I give in front of others isn’t very good.  And I rarely believe my teams are going to win at anything in sports.  I even prepare myself for Star Wars movies to be terrible just in case!

Basically, I see my faults and rarely my gifts.  I see my mistakes time and time again, especially when it comes to trying to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Despite my enthusiasm and positivity, it is mostly directed outwards, towards others.  When I look at myself, it is often with an overly harsh lens.

But that is why the salvation we have received in Christ is so important.  In the Psalm above, we hear that in God’s word is hope, and that in God there is steadfast love and redemption.  We call this “Good News.”  I need that word like a flower needs sunshine to grow.  The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the fact that Christ has saved and redeemed me through his work on the cross and not through my own actions is the oxygen I need to breathe.  Every day.  Without it, I’m residing in the depths of despair and hopelessness.  With it, I’m renewed, restored, and filled with hope.

This is what the word of God brings to all of us: hope.  We are not worthless.  We are not just sinners who screw up.  We are worthy of love, of grace, of salvation.  We are not losers but winners.  Winners because of what Christ has done.  Winners because God has loved and redeemed us.

There are times when we will despair, where we will be in the depths, when we will wonder if Jesus Christ truly loves us.  But we also already know the outcome.  We know it because Jesus Christ rose from that tomb, we know it because the Word of God says that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works.  We know it because the Word of God says that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  We know it because the Word of God tells us that with the Lord, there is steadfast love.  For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”  Amen

Tide To Go

Posted on: March 12th, 2017 by Brad Peterson

I have an amazing talent.  It is something you might not know about and it was in full display during my quick trip with Amy to Walt Disney World this past weekend.  My talent is this: I am GREAT at spilling on myself.  It is talent, a gift if you will.  I spilled on myself and stained my shirt every single day we were there.  Every single day.  On our last day, I even did it three seconds into our breakfast.  I know, you are amazed.  You should be.

But here is the thing: there is this great product called “Tide to Go.”  This little magic wand ERASES the stain for me.  My attempt to destroy a shirt, most especially a new shirt, is thwarted because of “Tide to Go.”  It makes my mistakes disappear and allows me to continue to wear the shirt until I spill on it again and then I can use the “Tide to Go” again!  Despite my messiness, I can continue to use that shirt despite my messiness.

It makes me think of Jesus’ forgiveness of our sin.  We sin and mess up, spilling all over ourselves, and Jesus, through his death and resurrection on the cross, erases that sin like a “Tide to Go” pen.  It is gone.  It is like it never existed.  The forgiveness of Jesus Christ allows us to move forward, to live boldly knowing that though we dirty ourselves with sin, we are made new through the work of Jesus Christ.  Our sins are erased, replaced with the grace and righteousness of Jesus, our Messiah and Savior. Even better, no matter where we go, Jesus goes with us.  We don’t have to remember to pack him, like I do with “Tide to Go.”  Christ is with us always, forgiving and loving us.  For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”

Kindness and Generosity

Posted on: November 2nd, 2016 by Brad Peterson

Earlier in this “Trinity Tidings” you saw a thank you to Bill & Eloise Knutson for giving candy to be used for the children’s sermon. Bill & Eloise donate candy a few times a year and it is always appreciated. But this time, when they brought it into the office, Eloise had a story to tell me.

When they got the candy, there picked it up at Aldi’s. As they were in line, there was a woman in line with them. They were making small talk and the woman asked Eloise if the candy was for Halloween, as she had some candy in her cart. Eloise explained that it was for the church and the children’s sermon. She told the woman how, at the end of the children’s sermon, I give two pieces of candy to the kids, one for them to have and one to share with someone else (my way of trying to teach them giving and stewardship).

As Bill and Eloise got their stuff ready to go, the woman took her own candy bag and opened it, giving half of it to Bill and Eloise, telling them to give it to the church for the children’s sermon. Bill and Eloise didn’t know this person at all. They had no connection to Trinity whatsoever. But here, in Aldi’s, was kindness at work.

This story is a great reminder that there is kindness and generosity in the world and when we share what God is doing in our lives, it can move people in a positive manner. Bill and Eloise were just sharing a small moment in the life of our church. The response to that sharing was generosity.

It is the small moments of life, small times of generosity and kindness, that reminds us that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world. They show us that love is at work, that people are moved by the work of Jesus Christ in our midst, and that sharing a bit of your faith with a stranger can make a difference. I know that Eloise was very moved by that act of kindness and I have been moved not only by her telling it, but her reaction to it.

May we model the same kindness and generosity that was being done in that checkout lane at Aldi’s. And may we give thanks for the generous blessings that we receive from our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Fuel

Posted on: October 9th, 2016 by Brad Peterson

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jew or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

 

Sometimes for my personal devotion I just won’t read the one I get in my email every day. Sometimes I just open the Bible to see what shows up and this morning I randomly opened up my Bible and read this passage, this vision of what it means to be the church.

This metaphor of the church as a body with many members has great appeal because so often we might feel that our part in the body is insignificant or unimportant. But in the body of Christ, we all have an important role and our gifts and talents are needed. It kind of reminds me when I graduated Seminary, me and many of my closest friends went back for a learning event that is kind of like the Seminary’s version of Homecoming. We met with our favorite professor who so encouraged us during our time at the Seminary and many of my friends were pondering going on to further academic work or even a doctorate. I was not one of those people. As we met with this professor, he talked to each one of my friends about things they should be reading and keeping up on and even possible places to go for their coursework. When he got to me, he said, “Brad, remember, the church needs really good pastors too and here is what you could do to continue to help you be a good pastor.” The body of Christ takes and needs all kinds.

But here is the thing about the body: all the member of my body are important, from the arm to the pinky toe to my eyebrows. But if I don’t feed the body, if I don’t give it fuel, it will not work properly. Even worse, if I do that for awhile, my body will start to shut down. Personally, I have lots of “reserve” if you will, but the body still needs food. It needs water. It needs its fuel to run.

And the church is not different. In order for the church to function and to fulfill its mission of sharing the Gospel and serving the poor, it needs fuel to run. To function properly. To let each one of its members fulfill its calling and use. We, of course, know that we are inspired by the Holy Spirit which guides us as the body of Christ. But the church, this body, needs fuel, and that fuel is your giving, especially your financial resources. In that regards, our fuel is getting lower. Our tanks are getting empty. Our reserves are too low for comfort.

We are blessed here at Trinity with an abundance of ministry. I am proud to be part of this body of Christ that reaches out into the community, who opens its doors to anyone and everyone, who thinks about the poor and needy, not only those close to home but those who are far away and strangers to us. I am proud of the number of people who use their gifts in ways both seen and unseen. I am proud that our building is in use almost every day, providing a place for fellowship, service, ministry, and fun to people of all ages. As people are wont to tell me when I am out and about, “You all at Trinity do A LOT!” That’s pretty cool.

However, we need fuel to keep it all going. We need your financial resources. We need your contributions. Without them, we deplete the body of Christ of its ability to function fully. If you have been paying attention to the financial reports in your Good News you may have noticed that we have been in the red since May. Frankly, if it wasn’t for some generous donations from the Women of Trinity, we would be in a lot worse shape than we are now. They are one example of sharing their gifts in order to help the body.

We need your gifts now as well. We need your gifts so that we can keep the body strong and healthy. We need your gifts so that we can continue to not only remain strong, but continue to grow in ministry and in service to our community and the world at large.

Each dollar you give is important and valued. Each second you give in serving the Lord is appreciated. Each member of this body of Christ we call Trinity Lutheran Church is a blessing. I pray that you will prayerfully consider fueling this body of Christ so that we can continue to be a blessing to the community and to each other. Thank you, in advance, for your support and for all you will do to be a blessing to Trinity.

Reminders

Posted on: October 9th, 2016 by Brad Peterson

As I sit here in my office (which is newly organized and clean and has actually stayed that way for almost three weeks. Miracle!) I can see a bunch of pictures. There is a wedding picture on the window sill directly to my left and a little farther on the side of a book shelf is a whole bunch of pictures, some of which I found when I was cleaning up my office those weeks back. There are pictures of groups of kids from Youth Gatherings, Mission Trip, and even my first youth trip to the Synod Middle School Gathering with my first group of confirmation students. There are a few pictures of me from weddings, a couple of me when I dressed up as Santa for stuff, a picture of me with our first dog Henry when he was a puppy, and some pictures of me at Halloween with various kids. But there are also three kind of special pictures.

One is a picture of OK Hedlund, which was included in his funeral bulletin. There is a picture of me, Linda Soleimani, Lois Oakland, and Lois’ sister Sharon that was taken at Joyce Hopkin’s funeral. There is a picture of Richard and Harriet Suneson and their kids taken at the 100th Anniversary of Trinity. Why would I have these pictures up? For one, there are pictures of members I was close with before they died. But they are also there to remind me of things. All of the pictures in my office do that in one way or another.

The wedding picture of Amy and I (and there some others of us in my immediate eyeline, like a picture of us and Donald Duck and a picture from early in our relationship) that remind me of how lucky I am to be married to such a wonderful woman and that when I got home all tired out and stressed she is there to lift me up, hear my whines, and make me laugh. The pictures of the kids (and a picture of me baptizing my goddaughter Genna Gretzlock which is also one a shelf in my immediate eyeline) remind me of the seeds that we plant in kids and the often special people they are, even if they have moved far away.

But those pictures of OK, Richard and Harriet, and Lois are there to remind me of certain things. The picture of OK reminds me that I am to be a servant, just as he was for so many years, taking the garbage or standing at a sink washing dishes. Not worried about recognition or acclaim, but that we are called to be servants. The picture of Richard and Harriet reminds me that I am part of a legacy of ministry at Trinity and to value that legacy of ministry which will continue long after I leave as pastor.

The picture of Lois reminds me to dream, to think about the ways the Holy Spirit is guiding and sometimes pulling against our own fear and stubbornness. It reminds me to not be content, to not settle, but to keep exploring for new ways that the Spirit is leading our ministry. It also reminds me to not be afraid to ask for something or to ask someone to do something because what is the worst that can happen? They can say no. But many times they say yes.

As a husband, I am privileged to be loved by an amazing woman who accepts (and tolerates) my uniqueness. As a pastor, I am privileged to be a part of people’s lives in every stage, sharing in the joys and the sorrows. But as a child of God, I am blessed to have the love of Christ shared with me by the people of this place and community of all ages. The pictures that I see remind me of all of that and that in the end, it is the people in our lives that matter the most. Not the stuff in our houses or the amount of money in our bank account. What matters most is the people we love and who love us back, even for a moment.

Lastly, I look up and I can see a sign that was given to me at my 40th birthday celebration here. It says, “Life is short. Eat the bacon.” It reminds me to not take for granted this life, the people in it, or the joy that is in life. That life is a gift but a fleeting one at that and we should enjoy it, appreciate it, and give thanks for it. And so I do. And so I say, “Thanks be to God!”

The Past is the Past

Posted on: August 23rd, 2016 by Brad Peterson

On August 1st, I spent my 14th anniversary of being pastor at Trinity at one of my favorite places: Wrigley Field, for the annual trip and the new tradition of taking my Logan nephew to a game. But the next day I did something I hadn’t done in at least 20 years: I played golf at the place where I learned to play, Cedardell Golf Course in Plano, IL, my hometown. It was there that I started caddying for my Dad and occasionally hitting a few putts to learning the ethics of the game to learning the rules and how to play and finally falling in love with this game I play as much as I can today. Of course, this was also the place I learned to curse as well (thanks Dad!)

It was amazing the memories that came back as I played my round (not the best either. So there might have been some cursing!). When I was in junior high I played three or four times a week, riding my bike over in the morning as I had a locker at the course. Sometimes I played with some of the old men from the church early in the morning and sometimes with my friends Curtis or Matt. Even now, I love to play a round early in the morning, something born from my youth.

For much of my high school years I didn’t play as much as other sports took priority, but I reconnected to golf in a big way in Seminary and now I can’t imagine not playing. But it all started there in Plano, IL.

While I was in my hometown, I snuck into my high school gym to see a plaque that we put up in honor of my Dad when he passed (the rest of the school has been completely remodeled, but not the gym), swung by the old house (looks exactly the same), and took a drive around town. It was fun to reconnect with my past, to relive old memories, to remember people and places from my youth, to look back for a bit.

But that is the thing: it’s the past. As much as I enjoyed the memories, especially on the golf course, they are just memories. I think the desire to drive back into memory lane was prompted by my 40th birthday, but in the end the place where I grew up no longer exists. It has moved on. I have moved on. Some might say that is sad, but I didn’t feel sad when I left. Sure, I had moments of grief and sadness as I recounted memories of my parents who are now long gone or friends that I don’t see or interact with anymore, but there was no desire to go back to that time. I left feeling content and happy. I was blessed to grow up in Plano, IL, though maybe I didn’t always appreciate it while it was happening. It shaped who I am today and for that I’m grateful.

In every place I have ever lived, there have been good times and bad times. There have been ups and downs. I have forged relationships that have been both live giving and soul draining. But we can’t truly go back to the past because we grow and change and so do the places. It is ok to look back but we can’t wallow in the past. We have to live, to move forward, to take what we learned and experienced and keep moving forward, one day at a time.

I know that I will visit again. I might even tee it up again. I know I’ll go worship at my home church again at some point. And when I do, I’m going to continue to be thankful for the way God guided my life in that place and helped shape me. I’m going to remember. I’m going to give thanks. And I’m going to keep moving forward.