Bike Story

By Caren Nicholson, Leadership Team

Caren NicholsonI had just finished my shift at the hospital and was on my way home one beautiful summer day.  I turned on Gramsie and noticed a couple of girls riding their bikes down the hill.  All of a sudden, one of the girls did a summersault over her handlebars and landed on the ground.  I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, I have to stop and help”.

I learned the girls’ names were Elizabeth and Ella. As I was assessing Elizabeth, she told me she couldn’t move her arm.  “Ahh, I said, I bet you broke your collar bone.”  I stayed with the girls while we waited for her mother.  Through the confusion of how to get the girls and bikes home, my name and phone number was given.  A few days later, Elizabeth’s mother called me to thank me again for helping the girls and gave me an update on her daughter.  She indeed had a broken collar bone.  Then she said, “Caren, your name sounded familiar to me.  I know your sister-in-law and we prayed for you and John.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks.  You see I was still in the middle of grieving the loss of my husband a couple of years earlier.  I doubted if God even existed or that he is who he says he is.  I considered myself a mature Christian prior to my husband’s illness, but here I was on the edge of walking away from God and faith.

What are the chances of a helping a complete stranger and it turns out they prayed for me?  What is the lesson here?  What are you trying to tell me?

Finding my way back to the Lord has been a long journey.  In a nutshell, my bike story showed I was not abandoned by God as I previously thought.   I discovered God’s abounding love in a way I have never experienced before.  He offered his grace to me and I accepted it.   That was the key…

I think of all the people that have walked away from God because he didn’t meet their expectations.   He didn’t do what they wanted.  Or maybe the church failed?  The Bible says our pain is not wasted.  That is my hope, and I pray God would use me to help someone see Him when they thought they were abandoned.


What the Bible Is and Isn’t

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

Over the past year, I’ve had countless chances to read the Bible quite a bit, albeit from a slightly different perspective. You see, our 3 year old has an illustrated Bible that offers a pretty great selection of stories that work through the entire Bible at a decent pace. There’s of course Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel, and Jesus…but it also takes an approachable look at prophecy, The Law, and Revelation. It still amazes me that such heavy topics can be brought to a relatable (and barely watered down) level. But I digress from anything that may seem like a commercial…

Probably the aspect I’ve appreciated the most from this Bible comes from the introductory chapter. As I was reading it (once again) the other night, the care the editors took in setting up everything stood out. In just a few short paragraphs, they are able to address some of the major objections people have with scripture simply by changing the perception of what the Bible is really supposed to be. Two main false perceptions of the Bible that they address are:

-“the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do.”
-“the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy.”
While there is a bit of truth to each of these viewpoints, they miss the mark by a long shot. Yes, there are plenty of rules found throughout the Bible, but as with any rules we encounter on a daily basis, we understand and appreciate them so much more when we know the reasons behind the rules. And yes, there are plenty of amazing people throughout scripture, but if we were to take an honest look, most of them have some pretty unflattering stories told right next to the stories of greatness (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the list goes on).
I would guess that a majority of people, Christian or otherwise, see the Bible from one of these points of view. But as I said, they really miss the mark on what’s actually going on in scripture. Yes, the Bible is a lot of stories, but those stories work together to tell one Big Story. A story of broken relationships and the lengths that God goes to in order to restore those relationships. A story of God’s deep love and compassion for us and what happens as a result of that love.
Growing up, I very much fell in the camp of the Bible being a book of rules and fun stories of amazing things that happened in the past. That mindset had a huge impact on my understanding of God’s character and how he interacts with the world today. I had to try my best to live by the rules because that’s where my sense of value in God’s eyes was tied up. Because of that, sin was accompanied by plenty of guilt and a general feeling of worthlessness. As I became more aware of this idea of the Bible as God’s story, it provided a deep sense of hope and relief. Rather than being a set of rules, I started to see the Bible as something that’s active and engaging, as a story that continues to be written today, and as something that I’m called to be a part of. How humbling that I can look back at these amazing stories of God’s action, provision, etc., and boldly declare that as part of my history and my calling (not just because I’m in ministry…because I’m a Christian).
I’m really jealous of my son. He gets to grow up hearing time and again that the Bible is a story of God’s love for all of creation, including us, and everything that God does to restore his relationship with that creation. Not only that, but he gets to grow up with the (hopefully) deeply ingrained understanding that God’s story isn’t over yet, that he has the honor of being a part of the continued work of restoration and redemption that’s playing out in the world around us, whether down the street or around the globe.
At enCompass, our mission is centered around the idea of building up people to join in God’s work. My hope and prayer is that we can find a renewed sense of calling and purpose each time we open the Bible, understanding that we are invited to join in God’s work.

Biking with Jesus

By: Al Wetzel, Church Chair

Al and Sucker Lake


“Being fully human” is a phrase describing Jesus and has been gnawing at me for some time, especially after the death of my wife.   She was diagnosed with lung cancer Christmas week in 2009 and died in my arms October 3, 2014.

During that time of caregiving, life became an endless series of medical appointments and failed expectations, only broken up by my appeals with God during bike rides.  It was a time of mere existence.  However, a month later the possibility of living fully again came to me in a spontaneous vision.

During that November 2014 bike ride, an overwhelming surge of thoughts flooded me: “I want to learn German, I want to go on adventures, I want to be buff again, I want to pursue interests with gusto, and I want to be immersed in love again.”Sucker Lake sign

To my surprise all of this is slowly coming true, more slowly on the German thing though, and I’m now trying to bring Jesus along on my rides, as if He were here in the flesh.  If He was fully human then He would probably try to race me to the next hill or suggest something goofy like, “Let’s go on a 5-day bike tour of northern Minnesota,” bike on the first snowstorm of the season, or any number of ‘guy things’ when the adrenaline is flowing.  I really don’t know where this exercise will lead me, but I’m trying to imagine personality on Jesus that I may not see expressed in the Bible.

Seasoned Faith

By: Kevin Thomas, Lead Pastor

As I speed down Rice Street from Shoreview each morning, the wide-open vista of Lake Vadnais opens up through my windshield.

Each morning pass is never quite the same. Like Monet’s haystacks, seasonal changes and weather conditions conspire to create a changing array of colored scenes. Spring pops out cheery greenery; summer radiates misty mornings; fall shows off Fruit Loop colored foliage; and winter hurls its icy harshness.

Lake Vadnais 2

My drive down Rice Street seems a lot like my walk with Jesus—it keeps changing with each pass. There are days when my soul shines with sunny brightness. Yet there’re also times I sense a cold wind sweeping through my rather frostbitten spirit.  While I wish my experience with God could be more predictable, I’ve found the mystery of following Jesus requires an openness to appreciate the variety of colors and shadows emerging around my faith.

Lake Vadnais’ vista offers one unchanging constant: the sun. It’s always there, though sometimes hidden behind a thick blanket of fog or filtered through passing trees. Following Jesus requires the same faith. He’s always there, though occasionally hidden by the seasonal conditions of my spiritual journey.

It’s reassuring to know that neither God’s sun nor his Son are going away any time soon. They both encourage me to anticipate the upcoming season of my faith journey.

Many thanks for joining along in the next seasonal pass of our spiritual walk together at enCompass.

Watching the Story Unfold

By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

Amber and KaiBig Sister just finished her dance performance. It must be at least the fifth one we’ve seen today. I clap and cheer as if I just saw a Juilliard performance though, and she beams as if she just performed one. I glance over at Little Brother and to my shock and amazement, I see him hitting the top of one hand clumsily with the other. Is he clapping?!?! He’s clapping! He’s clapping for the first time!

Those hands. Those chubby hands. I remember the day he learned to intentionally move his hands for the first time. And the day those hands grabbed a toy and held it. I remember when those hands learned to transfer a toy from one hand to the other, and now those hands are crawling around the house or pulling this little boy to standing. He is growing. He is changing. What a privilege to watch a life unfold. All those important markers and memories to record.

Here at enCompass church we are also watching our life together unfold. Through the years we have grown individually and collectively in our faith. We have honed in on who we are as a community of believers and what we can offer to the world around us. We have seen God move in our personal lives and in the life of our church.

Our hope through this collective blog is that we as a church community can document the important markers and memories of how God is moving. That this would be a place to share his glory, power, and goodness. Our prayer is that you would be encouraged as you read about our God sightings and that in your reflection you would be blessed to recount many of your own. Each of our stories is unfolding…let’s see what God will do.