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Substantial Healing: Baptismal!

Reading time: two minutes. I prefer "wellness" to "wholeness" although the terms are interchangeable and nearly synonymous.  My internal lexicon hears "wholeness" as having it all together, whole, complete, perfect in every way.  "Wellness" sounds to me more like Jesus saying to the woman healed in Luke 8, "Daughter, your faith has made you well!"  Not perfect.  Not Supergirl with no weaknesses, but touched, blessed, restored to full function: made well.  Francis Schaeffer called this "substantial healing" by the power of the gospel.  Let's walk through the Lutheran Wellness Wheel for the next few weeks, looking at substantial healing by the touch of the gospel.  Not perfection, but wellness.  Today: Baptismal!  Read More

New Generosity: Financial Butterflies!

Reading time: two minutes. Our "new beginnings series" around the Wellness Wheel wraps up this week.  Christ makes all things new, and wellness is the healing touch of his grace penetrating and transforming each aspect of our lives.  What's broken by sin, Jesus restores by grace.  Everything is broken, but thanks be to God, the grace of Christ reaches far and deep. January is a great time to consider our generosity as a witness to the Lord's goodness to us.  For all he's done, we can only respond with gratitude.  Gratitude is expressed in many ways, not the least of which is our generosity toward others.  Here are a couple thoughts on a tiny step forward in thankfulness as we invite the grace of Jesus to transform our financial wellbeing.  Read More

New Harmony: Emotional Butterflies!

Reading time: two minutes. I'm not a regular watcher of the Hallmark Channel.  Not my thing, really, although I think I understand why their movies are so popular.  People love a "feel good happy reunion at Christmas" story.  Families are split apart, best friends have a falling out, then the "Christmas miracle" happens and happy endings abound.  Mistletoe, eggnog all around, fade to commercial. It's a little schmaltzy, but it's a story we love.  Reconciliation is a story that's at the heart of the Christmas message of God's love and grace in Jesus.  Jesus heals broken relationships.  His loving forgiveness brings broken friendships back to life again, like newborn butterflies, dying and rising through repentance and grace.  Is there a relationship of yours that needs the Lord's healing touch this Christmas?  Read More

New Identity: Baptismal Butterflies!

Reading time: two minutes. "Behold, I am making all things new!" (Rev 21:5). "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (1 Cor 5:17). New in Christ is good news because each of us is in need of renewal every day; multiple times every day.  The wonder of grace is the complete, absolute, accomplished and thoroughgoing renewal as sins are forgiven and a new creature, the butterfly from the cocoon, comes forth, leaving the old caterpillar behind.  The sad news is that so many of the Lord's people live the old nature caterpillar life, neglecting the call to refreshment Dr. Luther issued when he taught us, "...that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die... and that a new man should daily emerge and arise..." (Small Catechism) Where could you use some refreshment, a new beginning?  Read More

Financial Health in a Post-Church Era!

Reading time: two minutes. There's a growing financial trend among American clergy that is only going to escalate in the days ahead: bi-vocational ministry.  Most of us know someone who has a supplemental income so that they can stay in ministry.  It's becoming more common, and is the fastest growing trend in seminary education.  I speak to pastors all across the country who tell me they know that they will someday need to find outside employment. And I expect that many more will be taken unawares by the financial reality as more and more of our churches explore this option with their pastors. Grace Place Wellness will soon partner with Rural and Small Town Ministry host a wellness retreat for Bi-Vo pastors and spouses (both rural and urban), but there's more we can all do.  Today I'll suggest four ways we can all offer encouragement and support to bi-vocational pastors.  Read More

Emotional Health in a Post-Church Era!

Reading time: two minutes. "Grudge" is one of those onomatopoeia words that sounds like what it means.  Grudge.  Rhymes with sludge and drudge, but it's not as sweet as fudge.  It's bitter. Our society is turning into Grudge World.  Recent testimonials to Senator John McCain emphasized his increasingly rare capacity to disagree, and even to offend someone, and still learn to co-exist; even more, to live together in love.  His peace-making efforts with the Republic of Vietnam point that out. This age of bitterness and resentment creates an amazing opportunity for the Church of Jesus to give testimony to the core of our faith: forgiveness.  Read More

Baptismal Health in a Post-Church Era!

Reading time: two minutes. It was a valiant effort, but an abysmal failure.  Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams wrote "The View from the Center of the Universe" to try to fill the void when God died.  Their premise is, "In spite of the fact that modern cosmology and sub-atomic physics have proven that there is no God, it's okay!  You're really special and hold an important place in the universe!" Even the reviews (and I'd encourage you to read the reviews before you read the book) say that the authors missed their mark by a mile, or rather, by a light-year.  Comments like, "I found no comfort or hope in their premise," and "I'm no closer to understanding who I am" were common. This is a great opportunity for proclaimers of the gospel in the new era in which we live. Read More

Financial Vitality for the Long Haul!

Reading time: two minutes. Church work couples need to have a conversation about church work salaries as early in their marriage as possible; hopefully right around the same time as the conversation that begins, "Will you marry me?" Nobody gets rich in this business.  Lutheran educators will almost always earn significantly less than their public school peers.  Small town and rural pastors face many financial challenges and few pastors anywhere will be paid in measure with their education and effort, their long hours and sacrifice. In order to stay in ministry for the long haul, it's important for couples to come to grips with this early on and not let these financial realities define them.  Here's what I mean.  Read More

Emotional Vitality for the Long Haul!

Reading time: two minutes. There's an atmosphere at your church.  I pray all the time that your church would have that light-hearted, joyous atmosphere that reflects the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I know that all too often, bad weather creeps in to congregational life.  A church with a tumultuous atmosphere hinders the mission and ministry of God's people.  Attendance drifts downward.  Decisions become burdensome.  Outreach is stifled. And church leaders, especially professional church workers, suffer. A good atmosphere in our places of ministry helps to ensure longevity of service both in the places where we are currently called, and in long, joyful, healthy careers in ministry.  So how do we keep a Spirit-filled, joyous atmosphere in the church?  Read More

Baptismal Vitality for the Long Haul!

Reading time: two minutes. "As for all the other events of Asa's reign, all his achievements, all he did and the cities he built, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?  In his old age, however, his feet became diseased" (1 Kings 15:23).  He had a nice long career, but maybe he should have taken care of his feet. One of the objectives of our preventive wellness ministry is longevity in ministry.  Often we look at the Wellness Wheel as a diagnostic tool for the immediate crises of life:  "How am I doing when it comes to baptismal, spiritual, relational, intellectual, emotional, vocational, physical and financial health?  What needs to change right now?" For the next eight weeks however, as we move closer to the busy fall season, I want to take a longer view.  What daily and weekly habits and disciplines will help to ensure decades of longevity in ministry?  How can I finish this long, arduous journey and still have strong feet?  Read More

A Summer Financial Refresher!

Reading time: two minutes. Maybe you had a first career as a Certified Public Accountant.  If so, see you next week! If you're like most of us, (especially if you're like me) your summer refresher is to set an appointment with a financial advisor and have a thorough review of your financial plans. The first time I knew I was an idiot (mathematically and financially) was when the math prof at Concordia Portland (who had my high school senior little brother in his college Calculus III class) asked me if I was going to ask Alan help me get through Introduction to Algebra after I flunked the mid-term.  Naturally, I refused. It gets worse.  Read More

A Summer Emotional Refresher!

Reading time: two minutes. I've watched a lot of cowboy movies.  Most of the riding around the range and roping cattle looked like fun.  The barbed wire jobs didn't look that enjoyable. There was usually a grizzled, sun-beaten old veteran like the Jack Palance character "Curly" in City Slickers mending the fence.  You'd see thick leather gloves, callouses, and a little bit of blood and sweat.  Maybe tears, too. Mending fences is really hard. Emotional wellbeing is tending to the mood of our relationships.  Some of my summer refresher suggestions have been on the fun side.  This one is tough, but worth the effort.  Read More