Nachos & Oatmeal

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

pic-for-derons-blogI always feel bad writing a blog about my interactions with my kids. There truly is more to my life than being a dad, but I learn so much from my boys…

Dinner can be challenging for a little one, especially when they’re sick, teething, and want nothing to do with one (or more) of their parents. After a few minutes of fussily picking away at the delicious assortment of food on his tray, we decided it wasn’t worth the fight and took the sick teething child out of his seat so he could go somewhere else and we could perhaps eat a bit of our dinner in peace.

That of course failed to pan out. More fussiness and frustration (from parents and child) and an overall feeling that the day was going to end on a hopeless note. To her (somewhat) delight, mom had an obligation outside the house, so I was left to handle the bedtime routine with the perturbed little one. Still more frustration, but then some glimmers of hope. And then the weirdest thing started to happen. Angry sick child started making his way around to the table. And showing interest in what might be available for his sustenance. Never mind that the warm succulent options were now tepid and unappetizing. Or that his eventual meal looked more like what you’d find at an early morning tailgate party. His attitude was gone, his tummy was full, and bedtime was solid.

The whole experience got me thinking…What do we miss out on when we reject God’s wonderful gifts because of our own pride? What more can we hope to experience by trusting God even through frustrations? I don’t necessarily have great answers to those questions just yet, but I pray for the awareness to be able to trust in God’s goodness even when I see very little of it in myself.

Matthew 7:9-11

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

 

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Want Less, Live More

By: Steve Lynch

house-in-shopping-cartLike the rest of America, I get caught up in the desire to add stuff to my life.  For some people, it’s stuff for their closet.  For others, it’s stuff for the garage.  We’re in this constant race to acquire stuff.  My weakness is houses.  I’ve developed a bad habit of spending my precious free time on real estate websites, looking for the perfect cabin, home or lot.  I can easily spend an hour looking for that next great house for my family to live in — one that’s in a better neighborhood or in a better school district or one that’s on a lake or has a bigger garage or more entertaining space or whatever I deem to be the needed improvement to our lives on a particular day.  It’s a constant pursuit until I inevitably find the house we “need” to have.  At that moment, the time investment grows exponentially.  From an open house visit or a scheduled showing to discussions about remodeling plans or finances, I get myself (and my wife) caught up in the serious pursuit of something we didn’t need a day or two earlier.  The real estate opportunity consumes my mind over the course of the hours/days/weeks that follow and dominates conversations with my wife.  Rather than discussing us and our boys, our conversations turn to things like “what if we blew out that wall and…” or “imagine if we took down the old garage and…”  I run through scenarios in my mind at all hours of the day/night.  I eventually come to my senses and I’m reminded that we already live in a great house, in a great location—a house where everyone has what they need to be safe, happy and healthy—and I let it go.

This is not a great pastime for me.  The pursuit has me focused on the wrong things.  It fails to acknowledge and appreciate all that God has given us.  Instead of appreciating what we have, I’m focused on what we don’t have, with no real proof that adding this stuff would tangibly improve our lives.  Taking it a step further: while this pursuit is supposedly about making our lives better, the unintended consequence is that my fixation on it is actually taking time away from enjoying what I already have, and giving thanks to God for all of my blessings.  It’s taking time, energy and focus away from what truly matters, which is our love for each other, the experiences we share and the presence of God in all of it.  Romans 8:5-6 says living with this sort of misdirected focus is actually not living at all.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

With that, my resolution is to want less and live more in 2017.  Rather than dreaming about lake moments and entertaining moments, I want to be more present in the moment—seeing God’s presence and expressing gratitude for all that we already have.

 

Photo Credit: © Kts | Dreamstime.com – House Shopping Cart Photo

Trouble Shooting

By: Kevin Thomas, Lead Pastor

cubicle-topsIn a previous life (circa 1992), I was employed as a customer service representative for a large legal research firm. A very familiar customer problem was often routed to the phone in my cubicle . . .

Me:                      Customer Service, may I help you?

Customer:        Yeah. I need to cancel this service. It doesn’t work.

Me:                      I’m sorry to hear that. Can you tell me what you’re experiencing?

Customer:        My computer screen is completely stuck. It’s a total disaster. I need to cancel.

Me:                      Hmm. That sounds challenging. Would you be willing to try something with me?

Customer:        I guess. But it won’t matter.

Me:                      Can you go to the “FILE” pull-down menu and then click on “RESTART”?

Customer:        The “what”? The pull-down menu?  I don’t know what you’re talking about.*

Me:                      In the upper left corner of your screen, can you see the word “FILE”?

Customer:        Oh yeah. There it is. How did you know it was there?

Me:                      Great. Go ahead and click on it. A list of words should then appear under it.

Customer:        Wow, you’re right. Cool.

Me:                      Near the bottom of that list do you see the word “RESTART”?

Customer:        Holy cow. Yes I do. This is kinda fun.

Me:                      If you can, go ahead and use your mouse to click on “RESTART”.

Customer:        Oh, no. My screen when blank. Did I break it?

Me:                      No, just wait a bit. I’ll stay on the phone with you.

Customer:        Thanks. You’re very helpful.

{Pause}

Hey—my computer is starting up again.

Me:                      Give it a little while here. After it completely restarts, I’d like you to try starting up the software again.

{Another Pause}

Customer:        Okay, here it comes. Yep, it looks good so far . . .

Me:                      Now try entering your search query in the software. Let’s see what happens.

Customer:        {typing} Okay, there we go . . . and hit enter . . . and  . . . oh my . . . it worked. It actually worked! This is amazing. What a great product.

Me:                      I’m glad the system is working well for you. Thanks for calling in.

Customer:        You’re a genius. Thanks so much.

Me:                      Have a great day. Good-bye.

 

To some of us, this conversation might seem ridiculous. Yet believe me—it happened countless times each day. While a few customers had significant technical problems, most just needed to reboot their computer to get things running smoothly again.

We all get stuck. As we endure a painful circumstance, a challenging relationship or a repeated failure, we have moments when we believe all is lost. Yet through Jesus, we’re offered a very familiar opportunity: A personal re-boot. Each day we’re given a fresh opportunity to welcome the grace of God. If yesterday was awful and today is not looking so good either, that’s okay. God’s Spirit daily offers us the opportunity to be repeatedly transformed through his love and care.

In the midst of a run of tragic events and painful circumstances, the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah offered us this gem of hope and grace:

Yet this I call to mind
               and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love,
               we are not consumed
               for his compassions never fail.

 They are new every morning;
               great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23

As we venture deeper into 2017, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we’ll have some tough days. Yet in the midst of those less-than-acceptable moments, never forget: His grace never wears thin and his love never runs out. With God, no pain is permanent and no failure is final.

So go ahead: call Him up and ask for a re-boot.

 

*Those familiar with this era of computing will recall the time of great transition from DOS operating systems to Windows 3.1. Many truly intelligent people were still quite confused by “pull-down” menus.

Photo credit: Michael Lokner via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

enCompass Begins for Me

By: Darcy Mears, Children’s Ministry Coordinator

darcys-blog-photo-1When my daughter was about five years old, she started asking where all of our loved ones were going when they died. Unfortunately, we had a slew of losses over the summer months into Fall. My sisters quarter horse had his last run, my Aunt Sunny passed away from colon cancer and Karlene’s betta fish, Thumbelina, floated to the great beyond in our backyard.

I could tell her what I believed but felt it was time to find a church to help her with this question. I began asking around and a good friend told me about enCompass Church in Vadnais Heights. It was very close to our home and a smaller congregation, which I love. I grew up in a small community, attended a high school with only 155 in my graduating class and was confirmed in a close-knit church; this is still my preference for any group size. No chance for obscurity or anonymity, instead an opportunity to meet everyone and become involved.

The involved part happened quickly as kidZone needed a preschool teacher and I was happy to be hired. Apparently, I was still going to be answering her questions along with various other meaningful questions from these little ones, all equally important. Thankfully, I was blessed with a church support system which allowed me to learn right along with the kids as I was also a preschooler by church staff standards. Eventually, I was given the opportunity to become part of the Coordination staff for kidZone. My role continued to grow toward a regular part of staff meetings and various ways to support enCompass, our church home. It began with the gift of enCompass families and their kids walking upstairs to read, play and explore with me and my children and blossomed into the perfect opportunity for me as time marched on.

From the start, the adults at enCompass did more than drop off their children, they also served the kids of enCompass in many ways. Besides volunteering during regular Sunday services, weeks of VBS and events like Birthday Party for Jesus, we also moved MANY tables and chairs and rolled out numerous racks of toys, materials and games each and every Sunday. I remember the day my friend, Frank, told me he would commit to running check-in every Sunday for at least a year! In the end, I think he stayed for close to three which was a HUGE help to me and the families.

Many years later, at Concordia Academy, we still move tables and chairs and roll the same racks out of storage each Sunday…in a wonderful church home. Again, I am reminded how truly grateful I am as a few other volunteers have committed YEARS (almost every Sunday) to set up in our new home; Stan, Dan and Mark. I still sense God’s grace and love when the kids of enCompass and their families join us in kidZone to grow, serve and love each other every Sunday.  I have had the privilege of serving many for a long time, a few for a short time and I appreciate every family for any time. I am happy to say; the questions still continue but the answers are now easily found.

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The Purposeful “Yes”: Saying No to Busyness

By: Laura Kalkwarf, Connect Group Leader

Kalkwarfs.pngThere are so many places and people who need good help.  I’m the type of person who usually will jump in and assist at the first sign of distress.  However, that has gotten me into deep trouble over the last six months.  I’d said “yes” to so many things that I was neglecting my children, my husband, and my homemaker duties big time.  I got pneumonia for the first time in my life in August and was down for the count for 6 weeks.  Who gets pneumonia in the summer anyway?  Someone who hasn’t figured out how to say “no” yet, that’s who!

It was always my thought that if I said “no” to a need, that meant I didn’t care about that person or issue, or that they would look down on me for not doing what was needed.  What if no one else stepped up?  What if they didn’t do it “as well as I could”?  (How’s that for narcissistic?)  What would happen if the need went unmet?

Well, when I was in the ER getting a nebulizer treatment because I literally couldn’t breathe, through me constantly apologizing to my husband that I was so sick, he looked at me and said “we have to take better care of ourselves.  We can’t keep saying ‘yes’ to everything!”  With tears in my eyes and a strain in my voice, I quietly agreed.  I’d have to do what I thought was letting people down by saying “no”.

I started slowly, after I began to feel better.  I looked at all the things I was currently involved in, and I’ll list some of them just so you get an idea of how I couldn’t say no:

  • Stay-at-home mom (SAHM) to 3 beautiful kiddos, under 6 yrs old
  • Primary Homemaker including budget management, planning, errands, meal planning, etc.
  • La Leche League member and consistent monthly meeting attendee
  • Dog foster through Ruff Start Rescue
  • Co-Chair of Dayton’s Bluff ECFE Parent Advisory Council
  • Volunteering in 3 -4 separate teams/groups at enCompass
  • Dayton’s Bluff ECFE weekly class attendee with Ben
  • Coordinator for Women’s Coffee and Conversation with enCompass
  • Independent contractor for small business in WI

Yeah, some of this had to give!  There was no way I was able to honestly honor God in all of my busyness, which is what I was trying to do.  I’d gotten myself confused – just because God had given me gifts and interests in all these different areas didn’t mean that I had to use them for all of these passions AT THE SAME TIME.  I was literally going crazy!

Obviously I can’t, and was in no way interested, in giving up my “day job” as SAHM and Homemaker.  🙂

I started slowly, with people I trusted to love me, to say “no”.  I’ll admit it, I had tears in my eyes when I said I could no longer help with things that I truly was passionate about.  And you know what?  People praised me for taking care of myself first!  They said they completely understood, they valued my participation and experience, but honored my need to step back.

The list above is now a little smaller, and I’ve taken steps toward even more honing.  It is a constant learning process, and when I have some manic phases in my days, I really have to contain myself.  I’ve given myself some “rules to live by” when I’m asked for help:

  1. Think about it for 24 hours. If I’m still wanting to say “yes”… (see step 2)
  2. Run it by my husband (or someone who knows me extremely well) If I’m still wanting to say “yes”… (see step 3)
  3. Look at my week (I’m type A personality – it’s color-coded on my Google calendar)
    1. Do I really have time to do it?
    2. Do I really have passion about this?
    3. How will it affect my current plans for that day or week? (see step 4)
  4. Run it by my husband again (or someone who knows me extremely well)
    1. Get Blessing to say “yes” or say “no”

Now, when I do say “yes”, it has been thought through and I’ve run it by someone else who can help me process it well.  It helps me see the things that I’m really passionate about, and for the other things that I certainly could help out with, either someone else will come along to do it (probably better than I could have!) or it won’t get done now, which usually isn’t the end of the world.

Honor God with your “yes”.  Honor yourself too.  Happy New Year!