Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thoughts from Luther Dell Bile Camp

This week myself, Marcus (middle school ministry coordinator) and 27 kids have traveled to Luther Dell Bible Camp for a week of fun and a chance to get away from it all. For one thing I find it odd that I am bringing up a bunch of middle schoolers so they can "get away" from their lives filled with constant craziness. We take away their cell phones, mp3 players and any form of being plugged in and force them to play games outside that involve throwing balls and tagging one another. We are also digging deep into the Word of God, my favorite part of camp.

This year we are talking about the "I am" statements said by Jesus. Things like "I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the good shepherd, I am the vine, I am the bread of life."

Today we are talking about truth. I always am in the boat with Pontious Pilot and ask 'what is truth?'. Apparently, everyone and everything out there is trying to tell us about truth and what is true. What is true? As far as I can tell there are tons of things that are true, but not the truth. For instance, if I am working a job, make money and then have that money to buy things that could make me happy for a time. That is true, I will make money and be able to buy things. My happiness may be short lived, but it is still present. That is true. But the truth is Christ is the only way to happiness. The true statement I wrote before was merely something that has been fed to be through television, radio and the internet. Society has claimed, falsely I might add, that my life is one filled with sadness, depression and doubt. My only way out is one of consumerism and temporary fads.

The skit we had this morning at Luther Dell was wonderful. An ordinary person was feeling like she was a pretty good person. She was nice to others, helped when she could and thought that was a pretty good way to heaven. Jesus shows up and tells here that 'yes, those things are good, but the way to heaven is following Jesus.' As she began to follow Jesus there were some interruptions along the way where people said that they had an easier and quicker way to heaven. Things like playing guitar, having lots of friends and having lots of Bible smarts rounded out the list. "These are all well and good," said Jesus "but the only true way to get to heaven is to follow me."

This is the truth we as Christians deal with. This is how we should live our lives knowing that no matter what we do, God's grace abounds. So keep following Christ, play your guitar or any other instrument for Jesus, do nice things because you are following Jesus, and make friends and follow Jesus together. This is the truth.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The opposite of Faith

In my love for reading blogs I came across a quote that I had forgotten by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. She writes, "The opposite of faith is not doubt; it's certainty." I like that.

Over the past few days since I returned from my mission trip with an amazing group of people (look for a full report later) I have been overrun with requests for confirmation interviews. This is a required part of the confirmation process and the soon-to-be 9th graders all seem to wait till the end of the summer to finish. I still have 10 left out of my 30 but if those 10 are anything like what I have had this week, then I am really looking forward to it.

Yesterday and Monday I talked with 7 very different people who all are wonderful and amazingly brilliant young people. We talked about sports, their family and the meaning of faith, baptism and confirmation as well. We even have a place in their confirmation project for them to list any questions they may have about Jesus, God, and the Bible. Normally, I get to that point and they look at me when I ask them and they can't think of anything. But the past 7 people I talked to all had questions. What was even better than the questions were the conversations that came after the questions. The depth and thought and even a little hurt and worry about questions like "where does the Bible come from" and "why do bad things happen" caught me off guard a little. But there was something under all of that when I looked into their eyes. I'm wasn't sure what it was at the time, but after reading Lamott's quote I realized it was the small seed of a maturing faith. The encouragement I was given from those conversations was unexpected and greatly welcomed.

In my life it's easy to see that doubt and faith are connected because of the experiences I've had and the massive amounts of fist shaking God has had to put up with from me. But for a teenager who is just beginning to experience doubt and anger towards God, this can be a scary thing. I also see a lot of people, both young and old who would prefer to mask their fears and doubt so they can seem collected and put together. This leads to misunderstanding and confusion. You become certain and sure of a God that breaks all the rules.

A faith that grows is one that is doubts and challenges. A faith that is solid needs to experience uneven and shifting ground. Otherwise, it becomes harder to recognize what God is doing in our lives.

Jesus Christ's love through his death and resurrection is one of the few things that I certain about. My uncertainty is abundant and rears it's ugly head when I think about what is next, where I am going, when life is hard.....iin other words, all the time.

Ask questions, doubt, you could even be angry at God. But don't you think that God's love is at least s big as your doubt?

After each of the interviews I came away energized because of the great conversations I had. My hope and prayer is that all of us may have those same conversations with our friends, family and fellow faithful and come away stronger in our faith.



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Parenting 101

Check out this video:

2 year old smokes 2 packs a day

This disgusts me to the core. Seriously, a 2 year old smoking two packs a day?Insanity.

This past weekend I spent time with my wife's family in Two Harbors, MN and I took my mom with me who was also in town from Colorado. Memorial Day weekend is a wonderful time to be "up north" from Minneapolis. My mom had only seen it in the winter time so I thought this would be a great opportunity for her to see the sights of the North Shore. While up there I spent time with both of my Godchildren. This is always a treat and they are very fun to be around. The first, Evan is almost 5 and well on his way to being a living terror. The other, Lexi is 2 and very cute. She has an older brother who is 4 and also quite great.

The difference between the two is parenting. Evan has a mother who is single and is living off of money given to her by her mom and dad. She has not been to college and doesn't have a job. Evan is also growing up in a house with her mom and another person who is soon to be going to jail for dealing drugs. Evan's manners and patience is something that are very thin and needs a lot of work.

Lexi on the other hand is a person that is very sweet. She has her moments, but loves her family and is growing up to be a very understanding and well mannered young lady. Her mother and father are very active in her life and have done a pretty good job with her and her brother.

Then I come upon a video with a 2 year old smoking with people laughing and encouraging the actions of the kid. The news report said that the kids whines and complains if he doesn't get his two packs a day.

What are we doing to kids these days? What are we giving our kids that is turning into an addiction that may not look like it's harming the child, but somewhere inside there is a growing disease that will one day hurt or harm that child? Is that good parenting?

Something as obvious as smoking when you are 2 is a no-brainer. But what about technology like the computer, video games and TV? What about certain foods like fast food? What about sports? Are our children becoming addicted to these things because we think it's cute, fun, or something "not that harmful"? I can always hear my mother saying "everything in moderation". Is that something I actually adhere to myself?

What if kids got addicted to reading, playing outside, splashing in puddles, going to church, singing, having dinner together, hugging mom or dad? I would argue those are the things we need to put in the hands of little ones like Evan and Lexi. I would hope and pray that they both get the best upbringing possible and that God is a part of their lives every step of the way.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

A question running through my mind

Lately I have been pondering the definition of "Contemporary Worship" and being the tech savvy person I am, I decided to ask the Internet.

According to Wikipedia: "Contemporary worship music (CWM) is a loosely defined genre of Christian music which has developed over the past sixty years and is stylistically similar to pop music. The songs are frequently referred to as ‘praise songs’ or ‘worship songs’, and are typically led by a worship band, with a guitarist leading. Today it is arguably the most common genre of music sung in churches — particularly in Protestant churches, both denominational and nondenominational. Some songs are even featured in more traditional hymnals" (emphases is mine)

So to me this is one of the broadest definitions possible. But when I think about it, contemporary worship is a huge swath of different styles both in music and order of service.

Here is what we currently have as a worship description at Word of Peace:

Traditional Worship
This service uses liturgy from the Lutheran Book of Worship. Music is accompanied by organ and piano with a cantor leading.
Blended Worship
This service uses contemporary liturgy and a mix of hymns and contemporary songs. The music is led by Spirit Wind.
Contemporary Worship
This service uses lots of contemporary music, the worship style flows easily and is easy to follow. The music is led by the band Sol(e)d Out.

I don't think that does what we do here justice.

When I was growing up, my church (a wonderful Missouri Synod Lutheran Church) wanted to add a contemporary worship service to the mix once a month. They enlisted a few guitarists, vocalists, piano, bass, and a drummer. This was by far a huge deviation to the normal organ, piano, hand bells and choir arrangement of services. I saw it as a good opportunity to learn more about this guitar I was learning to play, so I joined as well. Some of the favorite songs included: He is Exalted by Twila Paris and As the Deer. The group was solid and fun to play with and since I had no real knowledge of Christian music at the time other than the hymns, I was fine with whatever we did.

I eventually graduated, went to college, discovered contemporary Christian music, worked at a Bible camp, lead worship in College, went on a music ministry team to India and Nepal that played popular Christian music, became a youth director and eventually added Contemporary Worship Leader at Word of Peace as one more thing.

But now I have come upon a bit of a personal struggle. I have heard a few comments circulating about describing contemporary music and or the group that I lead,
Sol(e)d Out Worship, that have made me think.

First, you must understand that we at Word of Peace love different styles of worship. We have 4 services and all 4 are different. They are currently labeled: Traditional, Blended, Contemporary, and Contemporary. Some of the comments I have heard have both been encouraging and challenging in the same breath. Things like, "Are you playing on Sundays during the summer? I hope so because I miss it when you don't." Or "Having Sol(e)d Out at the Blended service won't work because they are too loud." Or "The contemporary service on Sunday and Monday are the same thing because we do the same music."

The last comment really made me think and wonder what "Contemporary Worship" really is. Right now, I can only believe that it is anything that is not Traditional organ lead worship. But for the sake of the people that worship Jesus at Word of Peace and those that visit our website and church, I would hope that we could do a better job at describing what we do here.

If I were to describe the services at Word of Peace it would be something like this:

Traditional 8:00am (8:30 during the summer): What a Lutheran most likely grew up with. A worship filled with liturgy straight from the hymnal. The organ, piano and a Cantor (lead vocalist) lead the congregation in hymns, kyrie, sung psalms, and musical communion liturgy. Special music during this service is provided occasionally by the Adult Choir (Voices of Peace), hand bells (Angel Wings), Men's quintet (Harmony), small women's choir (Deo Glorious and other instrumental pieces. We do not use hymnals, but the printed bulletins you receive as you enter serve the same purpose with all hymns and liturgy printed in it.

Blended 9:30 (10:00 during the summer): Very similar to what Lutherans grew up with and find familiar. This worship service is a gathering of both Traditional and Contemporary elements of worship. Typical accompaniment is by Organ and Piano with very occasional other instrumentation such as sax or drums. Songs range from hymns to contemporary music written between the 60's and 2000's. Parts of the service liturgy are sung such as the psalm and Gospel acclimation. Special music during this service is provided occasionally by the Adult Choir (Voices of Peace), hand bells (Angel Wings), Men's quintet (Harmony), small women's choir (Deo Glorious and other instrumental pieces as well as the kids choirs (Grace Choir and Kids of the Kingdom). Hymns, songs and liturgy are all projected on the screen at the front of the church with your bulletin serving as a worship outline.

Contemporary lead by Sol(e)d Out Worship 11:00 (Varies during the summer): A high energy laid back service that draws on the fantastic traditions of the Lutheran church. The contemporary service at 11:00 focuses on music and the word. You will find music lead by a full band with acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, mandolin, keys, and drums (both drum set and hand drums). Songs sung include modern arrangements of traditional hymns and modern Christian worship songs by artists like Lincoln Brewster, Hillsong United, Christ Tomlin, and Paul Baloche. Loud Congregational singing and clapping is encouraged. Special music is often provided by Sol(e)d Out as well as the kids choirs (Grace Choir and Kids of the Kingdom) with occasional appearances by the adult choir (Voices of Peace) and hand bells (Angel Wings). Songs and Readings are projected on screens at the front of the sanctuary so that all are included.

Contemporary lead by Wing and a Prayer 6:30 pm Monday Nights (Varies during the summer): This worship service is extraordinarily laid back and shorter than any other service at 45 minutes. It is a service of song and word lead by vocalists, piano and drums. Songs sung during this service are contemporary and range anywhere from the 60's and 70's to the newest worship songs. This service is a great place to be after a long Monday or a crazy busy weekend.

There...that makes me feel a little better. I really think it is important to describe what we do here at Word of Peace because that way there is no confusion and if you have a preconceived notion as to what traditional, blended or contemporary worship is please put that aside and come and see what we have going here. You may just connect with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a way you never expected.



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Youth / Graduation / Baccalaureate Sunday

May 16th marks another wonderful event in the life of the youth ministry at Word of Peace. I am excited to announce that this year’s graduating class is the first I, Dain Swanson Director of Youth Ministries, have seen all the way through confirmation and high school youth group. Wow, that means seven years have passed since I started at Word of Peace. I smile when I think about it. So, I would like to invite everyone to attend worship on Sunday the 16th or Monday the 17th to see a service put on by the youth of this congregation with music, drama and a few testimonies by some of the graduating seniors themselves. Also, we need lots of help with these services so encourage your high schooler to come the next two Wednesdays to help out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Summer Mission Trips and Camp are here!

Just when you thought it was time to hunker down and get ready for another few months of winter a glimmer of hope appears! When I think of summer I imagine warm sunny days filled with the fresh smells of cut grass and a warm breeze in my face. I drive with my windows down and the radio up. I think of campfires and roasted marshmallows between graham crackers and chocolate after a hot dog or burger on the grill. But most of all I think of the awesome trips that happen for the youth at Word of Peace. Most people think of vacation, I think of full on youth ministry and serving others as a part of that.

This summer will be no different. In fact it will be more awesome, filled with more excitement and more opportunities to serve than ever before. As parents of High School youth I encourage you to encourage them to participate in one of these amazing opportunities this summer. These trips break the cycle of a monotonous summer day while expanding their views on the world and most importantly God. These trips are filled will fun and challenges of both the physical and mental type. They are chances to grow and mature in faith and as human beings. I can assure you that your teenager will come back a different person, a better person.

Take a quick look at the options provided this summer.
Red Lake, Minnesota - July 18 - 23
Deadline is February 10th
$60 non-refundable / non-transferable deposit
Cost for this trip is $258 + transportation and extra activites
YouthWorks Website
Full Trip Details

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada - July 18 - 23
Deadline is February 10th
$60 non-refundable / non-transferable deposit
Cost for this trip is $278 + transportation and extra activities
Trip Information Page
Full trip Details

Wilderness Canoe Base, July 11 - 17
Deadline is February 10th
$100 non-refundable / non-transferable deposit
Cost for this trip is $350 + transportation and extra activities
Trip Information Page
Full Trip Details