When God Might Need a Backseat Driver (umm... Never!) 

Last week I was driving my Freshman son to school and we came up to what is known to be a Looooonnnng stoplight. While he insisted that we would be late, I decided that, instead of waiting for 3 minutes to go straight, I would safely and legally turn right, turn left and turn right again and save my son 2.5 minutes and keep him on time for class. He was quite frustrated with me at first and I asked him point blank "Do you TRUST me?". And from the back seat of the car, his blunt answer was - NO!

While it was mildly amusing to me as I schooled my son, I was forced to confront my own issues when I was put in the backseat of God's car insisting that God must be making a mistake. I'm now a staff minister at St. Paul's Lutheran in Muskego and part of my role is to help with funerals. When we heard that God had called home a beloved member of our church, Christian college mentor and softball coach, husband and father in a God fearing family... let's just say I had a hard time not questioning God's decision and his timing. In fact, on some levels I still am.

"God, I know you're in heaven and you can see all things, but in case you didn't notice, your Christian church on earth needs all the help it can get. I'm not so sure this was a good idea.." "Father, you passionately instructed husbands how to love their wives and wives love their husbands and parents love their children and kids honor your parents... we sure could use more LIVING examples of that in our world. I'm not so sure this was a good idea..." Years ago, 11 year old me found out about the death of a beloved mentor and neighborhood friend. I cried and screamed - believing that if God raised people from the dead in the bible, he could do it again for my friend... Many of you know what I'm talking about.

I have to admit, from my place in the backseat of God's car, I don't always like where He's taking me... taking us. Many days I'm sure that, if God just listened to my advice, this thing would work out OK. The trip would be quicker and more successful. The words from Isaiah sting as my heavenly Dad turns around and looks at his son and says "Son, do you trust me?" and I sheepishly, or angrily, or sadly say NO!!

And yet on he drives, knowing of the wound and fear in my heart and drives to where he knows I need to go and where only he can lead.

As we consider the upcoming Christmas season, perhaps we might reflect that God's rescue plan, in the person of Jesus, born into humanity in the humility of a stable in Bethlehem is FAR from the script we would have written. And yet it had to be done this way so that every prophecy would be fulfilled, every promise of God would come true, every sin would be forgiven and every trusting soul would be delivered.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - I'm afraid you're driving the wrong way. Overcome my fear with your constant assuring presence. Forgive my doubting, accusing heart. Help my unbelief and deliver me from evil. In this season of life, when it's all out of my control - give me a faith that sees Jesus and your deep desire for all people to have a personal relationship with you through Christ. May it be before me as it was with Job when he said - "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you".

By faith, I know that you don't need a backseat driver. Help me to leave my life and future in the safety of your hands and your plan! Drive on dear Jesus!

Jesus Didn't Come for You... 

Do you know what a "doppelganger" is? The dictionary gives the entry of "a ghostly double or counterpart of a living person". I had never heard the word before an artist that I have a lot of respect for somehow managed to put it into a song that somehow made a lot of sense. You see, I've been coming to a realization about myself and about us as human beings. There is a part of me that I really... Really... REALLY want you to know. And there is a part of me that I really... Really... REALLY hate. I would hate for you to see that version of me, and I really want you to see my best version. I think all of us can relate.
 
The smart and witty version of me, who has the right answer to the question. The super Christian who knows some Bible passages and how to apply them. I would hate for you to see the guy who swears at the TV when Michigan or the Packers can't do anything on offense. The disappointment I unleash on my kids when I'm not paying any attention to them. The Bible that hasn't been opened in a week.
 
As I think about the alarming rise of fear, anxiety, depression, and suicide among people today, especially for young adults, there is something that is becoming clearer and clearer to me. I am afraid - deeply afraid to really look into the mirror. Because on the other side of the pretty version of me, my ghostly double, the monster that is inside me, is too much to bear.
 
But, this is where the healing begins I have this picture in my mind of me standing in front of a mirror staring at the doppelganger, ashamed of what it is and that it is a part of me. When slowly I become aware that Jesus is standing right behind me. He isn't mad, he isn't upset, he isn't ashamed, he isn't disappointed. He looks at my ghostly alternate and says "that's the part of you that I came for, that I love, that I redeemed". He reminds me that he didn't come for the part of me that is healthy; he came for the part of me that is sick. And since I and my doppelganger share the same blood - then Jesus came for me on my best days when my pride is blinding me from my need for a Savior - and he came for me on my worst days when the monster has won the day.
 
We look into the mirror and hate ourselves. Jesus looks into the mirror and his heart breaks for relationship with us... to make us whole and to begin again!
 
Jason Gray wrote a song years ago called "The Golden Boy and the Prodiga l " about this doppelganger effect. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, what happens when we hate what we see in the mirror? Jesus reminds us he came to heal the sick, not the healthy. Save the broken sinner, not the righteous who need no savior. He finishes the song with these lyrics:

The Golden boy is made of straw His finest suit will surely burn
His vice is the virtue That he never had to earn
The prodigal's been broken And emptied at the wishing well
But he's stronger for the breaking With a story to tell
 
I'm not easy with confessions It's hard to tell the truth
But I have favored the golden boy While the other I've abused
And he takes it like a man Though he's longing like a child
To be loved and forgiven And share the burden for awhile
 
So take a good look in the mirror Tell me who you see
The one who Jesus died for Or the one you'd rather be
Can you find it in your heart To show mercy to the one
The Father loved so much That he gave his only son...

No... Jesus didn't come for the Golden Boy version of me and when I hear that, my prideful monster rises up. And in frustration and embarrassment at the appearance of my monster, God's love, mercy, and grace washes over me and reminds me that I matter, I am loved, I am enough. Why? Because Jesus came for the Prodigal that is inside me and inside each one of you.
 
Give yourself a break; receive the forgiveness that Christ won for you - because he loves you on your good days yes, but even more so on your days of weakness.  I wrote a song about that called "Singing Over You". Read Zephaniah 3 for yourself and see the Savior who is mighty to save the sin sick monster in all of us!

 

Moving from Meteorology to Ministry 

I just wanted to share with you some of the changes coming up and to ask for your prayers.

I have been the Director of Operations for Innovative Weather at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee for the past 12 1/2 years, where I mentor college students in the field of meteorology. I oversee all partner relationships, develop the internship program and do life with my staff. It has been an amazing run and on October 31st I will work my last formal shift as the leader of that intern program. Before that, I was an on-air meteorologist for Weather Eye Inc. for 8 years and before that a severe weather assistant for NBC Channel 4 in Milwaukee for 4 years. That's roughly 25 years as a meteorologist!! While I will remain on with IW in a guidance role, this is a major shift in my life.

I will be stepping into full time ministry with St. Paul's Lutheran church in Muskego, WI, where I have been a part time partner with them. For several years now, I have been an adviser to the Ministry team and the coordinator for The Bridge and contemporary services. I teach 7th grade public school catechism, and I partner with St. Paul's on Awake and Alive. My role there will expand to include creating a functional 18-25 ministry and mentoring opportunity for older generations, overseeing our worship tech teams, and learning how to tell story through the use of video technology.

In addition to my work at St. Paul's, I continue to lead Climb the Mountain Ministries - which is the traveling/speaking part of my personal music and ministry that I will continue to do as we partner with other churches around the country. I lead Awake and Alive, a ministry that is passionate about serving 18-25 year olds through our conferences. And over the past 4 months, I was asked to help Time of Grace create online content and ministry specifically for Gen Z and more will come on that later.

Most importantly I am Melissa's husband and the father of Adam (20), Abby (18), and Thomas (14). They are my most cherished relationships I have next to Christ.


To be honest, working two careers at the same time is hard, but I've also been blessed to work in the best of my skill sets with some of the best of people both in secular and ministry life. The reality is that I am beyond blessed, and I am quite tired. Transitions are stressful as it is, and this move will include some pretty big life changes for me and for my family, and we really have no idea how it all goes. If in the quiet of your day, would you pray with me for a few things:

* For a professional transition to the interim Director of IW - Alex Bukvich. That he would not be overwhelmed and that I would be part of the team that God uses to help him lead IW into the future.

* For St. Paul's leadership as they lead God's people there with the heart to reach others that don't know the hope of Christ.

* For my wife Melissa, that the transition gives us more time together as a family. All you spouses of ministry workers know that a transition like this has some challenges. God grant us peace in the midst of the moves.

* For me. To keep priorities as they should be. That I would have people who would help create and sustain healthy boundaries while encouraging faithful, creative ministry. That God would open doors for me to help people see Jesus more clearly both inside St. Paul's and beyond through the various ministries God has allowed me to partner with.

Ultimately that God would take away the fears and anxieties by helping my family and I focus on what Christ has already won for us and to walk into the future "For the joy set before us".

Everything for Good?? 

There are probably 3 Bible passages that find voice in the songs of this album. For the Christian, they are very familiar passages of hope in troubled times, and I hope they are treasures to you. Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11. But during a season of intense challenge and fear, it was this diamond of truth in Lamentations that God sang over me and my family. While that fear gripped us for a time, God’s patient, steady healing had begun much earlier by planting so many stories of his faithfulness in our lives before we even started this journey. One where we grappled with the challenges of mental health and the need to be vulnerable enough to let people into our pain. The journey to wait patiently to hear God’s voice in our waiting. And the maturity that would eventually come, only after God had put his “yoke” on us, on me, for a time that would bring growth that could only come through a challenging season.

Through it all, I am amazed to see, say, and sing that God’s faithfulness is even greater than I could have known, that His mercies really are new every morning. His compassion and love for you, for me, will never fail, because that love consumes the heart of God. So much so, that the Son of God, became human and lived a perfect life we couldn’t live. Died a death that we deserved. Paid a price we could never pay. To call us something we could never claim. Son, Daughter – Loved one of God, by the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

If you are new to Christianity, new to the relationship with Jesus, then I hope these songs of praise, reflection, and even deep vulnerability, will give you a glimpse into the hope we have in the midst of difficult times. That they might give you a prayer to sing when you have no words to give and will give you a shout of joy when you experience the faithfulness of God. He really does work - everything for good - for those who hope in and love him!

Abominables and the Spring that Wouldn't Come 

 

Spring is my favorite time of year. I enjoy Summer's heat, the colors of Autumn, snowstorms and Christmas lights in Winter. But I LOVE seeing the earth explode with color and life (and no I don't have allergies). God reminds us of his Gospel Grace "See I make all things new!" and I just revel in the longer days, warmer nights and the way things come to life. So what about this year? In the western US, they never really got a spring. It just jumped from a wet winter to summer. But for me, my precious spring - never came. And I've been wrestling with the reality of "Disappointment".

In her book "Rising Strong" author Brene Brown describes disappointment as "unmet expectations" and she notes something very powerful about these expectations. MANY of them begin as stealthy, sneaky assumptions. It's SUPPOSED to be like THIS! That's what our minds say anyway. And then we feel the disappointment emotionally, spiritually and physically. The antidote and recovery is really to acknowledge the story we've told ourselves, examine our assumptions, and set up clearly defined, communicated and agreed upon boundaries.

So, for me anyway, my spring has been filled with the Abominable of an East wind, that kept the chilly waters of Lake Michigan present throughout SE Wisconsin in April and May. We've had the Abominable of snow, which again showed up into late April. We've had the Abominable of widespread persistent clouds/rain for most of spring and the Abominable of Hudson Bay Canada - which is still 50% ice covered as of late June! It's like they just kept coming and messing up my spring and even early Summer. And these Abominables never seemed to make time to get on the same page with me!!

So I have been reminded of a couple things this spring.

  1. I am in control of a lot less than I think I am (hint - none of it... really).
  2. In a day an age of instant anything, seasons of patient endurance are important for our personal and spiritual growth.
  3. When I feel the impact of disappointment, it's really important for me to step back and examine my expectations and really look hard at my ASSUMPTIONS.


Lastly, I am reminded that when Abominables come attacking my expectations, God is often using them to redirect my focus, my vision and ultimately my path and the steps I take.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. - Proverbs 19:6

In the end - Spring came. Flowers sprouted. Grass greened. Birds returned to singing. The sun did shine from time to time. Though it didn't come the way I wanted, assumed and expected - I still look around and marvel at the goodness of God and grateful that he directs my steps!

 

Did You Hear the Good Message? 

In my 7th grade confirmation class, my students have had a hard time getting their heads around what the "Gospel" is. Most of the time they'll say "It's the happy part of the Bible" or "It's found mainly in the New Testament". They're not wrong, they just aren't right.

If you're new to Christianity, the idea of translation for the word "Gospel" is "The Good News" or more specifically, "The Good Message". I honestly prefer the word "message" in our context and culture of the day because nobody reads the news, they get the news when they want it, or they get it usually when it's bad news. But a text message makes all of us jump, and we get a little excited because we know it's for us... I know the text is for ME.

The Good Message is this: Jesus Christ loved me so much, that he died for my sins and rose to life to give his victory to me. He makes me his child and gives me life that will last even when my body dies, promising to make me fully human and in complete relationship with God in heaven. Or more simply. Jesus died for my sins, so that I could have eternal life and invite others to that same hope.

But today, I just want to be an encourager to remind us, as I have to remind my Catechism students, that the Good Message is found, not just in the New Testament, but it's rich and personal in the old testament too. Many of you probably already do this, but just in case you don't I want to share a guide that is helpful for me to see the Good Message throughout the Bible.

Look for anywhere that talks about things that are dead, dying or broken. They can be people, kingdoms, cultures, dreams... Look for anywhere that talks about things that are new, growing or coming to life. When you see these examples from scripture you will see the Gospel truth come to life. The following passages have been the help for me to see the story of Jesus more clearly throughout scripture and everywhere in the world, right down to my own heart:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 (This is a great, simple packaging of the Good Message)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10 (Jesus is speaking very specifically here)

Through this lens, you start to see some beautiful applications of the Gospel in the Old Testament, stories that are often practical, personal, and transformative reminders of the stories of God's faithfulness when we believe the Good Message and put it into practice in our everyday life.

He Looked Right At Me 

 "I thought I could handle it. I knew it would be a little dangerous and that someone might recognize me, but I had to do something Luke! So I followed John who was able to get us into the courtyard as we waited to figure out what was going to happen to Jesus. I thought, maybe there was a rescue, but you know I did tell him that I would die for him. I tried to do it with my little short sword in the Garden, but the Master wasn't pleased with that effort. So while I was in the courtyard some people started to ask me questions. I tried to shake it off and get them to move on. I evaded... OK, I denied I knew Jesus quietly the first time, but they were persistent. Finally I had had enough and I started calling down curses in my denial. I heard a sound behind me and it triggered a memory of something Jesus said. 'Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times'. As I recognized the sound of the rooster and the words of denial coming out of my mouth, Jesus was being led through the courtyard.

Luke... He looked right at me".

Luke was a very detailed writer and likely spent a lot of time interviewing people. As God led him to write down the accounts of the people to help tell the narrative of the Gospel of Christ, we can almost picture Peter and Luke sitting down as Luke perhaps asked him all the hard questions. Later on, in the letters that Peter wrote to the church, you have the much older and wiser friend of Jesus who speaks with the maturity that only failing, repenting, trusting God's forgiveness and then getting up again, can bring to a person. After his denials of Christ, he weeps bitterly. He hides with the other disciples after Jesus death is confirmed. He cowers in fear at what the Jewish elite might do to him. And then - a glimmer of hope.

Perhaps the first glimmer of hope came from the very face of Jesus. Jesus wasn't surprised, he predicted it would happen. I picture Jesus continuing his prayer at the time of the prediction "Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32).

Fast Forward: At the news of women that they had seen an angel, all the other disciples refused to believe them. It was just utter nonsense. But the thought of those words "JESUS IS ALIVE!!", caused his broken heart to dare to hope again. "Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb" (Luke 24:12). In John's Gospel, John beat Peter to the tomb, but Peter was the one to go in. That day they would see Jesus in person. Some days later, Jesus would again look into the eyes of Peter and ask him three times "Do You Love Me?". He would restore Peter and weeks later, Peter would preach one of the most pointed sermons ever at Pentecost, setting the foundation for what the church would be in the millennia ahead.

So what about you? What about me? I just keep coming back to the look on Jesus face and the prayer for Peter who he knew would blow it. Maybe nobody knows the doubts that you wrestle with. Maybe nobody knows the secret sins I've committed. Maybe nobody knows the fear we carry and the real consequences of truthful answers. God does.

As we walk with Jesus this Holy week, to the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the empty grave, consider the fact that in your darkest times, Jesus is looking right at you. With the words "He is not here, he has risen, just as he said", may God melt our fears into joy. First, that his sacrifice for my sin was enough!! That by it, my identity is "LOVED CHILD OF GOD!". That "Life to the Full", heaven, perfect relationship with God is something that we will experience when our bodies die.

This Easter season, when Jesus looks straight at Peter... at you... at me - consider JESUS hope for you and me in the wake of the Easter Resurrection - "I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen others". Yeah - He's looking at You :)

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The Pharisee in Me 

"White Washed Tombs". That's what Jesus called a group of religious elites in his day. Jesus, the Son of God, who was sent to bring life to the dead, healing to the sick and to bind up the brokenhearted had had enough. The Pharisees had pushed, prodded and "prouded" themselves throughout Jesus ministry and God was done. Jesus, God in human flesh, calls out these religious elites with seven woes, each one more damning than the previous one. And then he gets to the 6th time and he calls them a grave that has been painted over to look pretty on the outside while a dead heart lurks within.

We are going through a couple of challenging message series over the past two months "Jesus Friend of All" and our current series "Me, Friend of All?" (Just click on the links if you'd like to view them). The challenge has been to examine how Jesus was a Friend to us and then to challenge God's people and ask the question, "Do I follow Jesus example?" This message series is based in part on an incredible book called "Gay and God" written by Pastor Mike Novotony and it's an examination of what it means to love ALL people ... AND ... love ALL the passages God wrote. And I have a confession to make.

I grew up in the church. Christian education. I knew the Gospel, passed the tests, served in the church and have tried to lead. Yet there has been a nagging in my heart when it comes to loving people who aren't Christians, or Christians who say they are, but don't live like it. You see, it's in humility that we see and admit our sin. Only the repentant sinner receives forgiveness and that means you have to show people their sins, right? How can they know they need a Savior if they don't know they are a sinner. It's good math - and yet I missed something until a couple weeks ago and it has bothered me much of my adult life.

Loving people who don't believe in Jesus is hard and my default heart position is to point out people's sin. My overwhelming desire is to point out their failure to live up to the LAW. The driver that cut me off... LAW ON YOU!!! The thief who steals and gets caught... THE LAW ON YOU!!! The person who doesn't believe like me... Yep, THE LAW ON YOU!!! Oh I might not say it that way, but I am surprised and disappointed to see that this is almost always my knee jerk response. And I can see now that it is the Pharisee in me. I know Jesus, I am saved and yet my instinct is to point out the failure of people first, rather than the love of our Savior.

In Mike's book, he does an excellent job of helping us see how Jesus loved those who were not at all like him. The Good Samaritan is Jesus, I am the wounded man on the side of the road, so completely different from him and yet he helps and heals me. You see, God's example starts with an unconditional LOVE.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father waits with patience after the younger son crashes and burns, while the indignant older son despises the foolishness of the loving Father. For the one who ran away, the Father waits patiently. For the son "slaving away" he goes out to get him. The Father extends and restores relationship to those who have destroyed it. That is the heart of the GOSPEL.

As I went through the book about loving LGBTQ people AND the Passages that God wrote I found that, while others may find their identity in their gender, sexuality, skin color, financial status and religion among other things - perhaps my identity is far more rooted in the Law, than it is in the unconditional Love of God. It is the reason I am quick to say "But we need to show them how they are sinning... how they are wrong". The Law does not inspire life, it only confronts people with Death. If there is no hope for forgiveness extended first, the law is a hammer that will crush without mercy and that's why the order Pastor Novotony lays out is to Love, Gospel, Bible, Trust. LGBT if we are going to be Jesus to people who do not know Jesus.

While I am disappointed to realize that there is a lot of Pharisee in me, I also take comfort in who Jesus eats with. Remember how several times the Bible talks about Jesus going to eat with Sinners and Tax Collectors? Remember how he said he came to SEEK and SAVE the lost? Well he also ate with Pharisees and yes, even some of them came to experience the power of the Gospel he preached. It is comforting to know, that God's gift of Grace and forgiveness and unconditional love is also a gift that he extends to the Pharisee in me.

Let's keep praying for each other that we might serve those who have no relationship with Jesus with the LOVE of Christ, the unimaginable gift of the GOSPEL, the undeniable TRUTH of the Bible and then let's live in absolute TRUST that God will work all things to his good, in his time, for his glory and our eternity!

Rest in the Midst of the Polar Plunge 

January is known for a lot of things. If I were to ask you what the month of January meant to you, what would you say? For us, the wedding anniversary of my wife and I (22 years this year!). It's the birthday month of two of our three kids It's Awake and Alive month! And it's the month when seasonal depression can really kick in.

Right now, we're just starting to come out of the darkest time of the year, have endured a lot of snow and cold these last couple weeks (-21F this morning in MKE), and for some, it can really suck the life out of you. For any of us who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, then this plunge isn't just the temperature related kind, it can be the depressive kind too. Overworked, underexcercised, stressed out, unappreciated, tired, restless, cold... Waaaaaait a second. I think I see what's going on here...

I don't know about you, but I know that I have a tendency to turn inwards when I don't feel good. I look around and compare my life to some ideal that I have in my mind. I look in the mirror and I cast judgement on what I see. I look at my to do list and I feel guilt. I remember what I thought, said, did and I want to take it back, I feel my shame. It's amazing to see that for some of us, we really have to be careful in these darker months, because we tend to look inward at our self. It's hard to see our way out and it's exactly the opposite of what the Psalmist implores our souls to do.

6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life   

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." - Psalm 42

When we feel the physical, emotional, and spiritual impact of the various "Polar Plunges" in the seasons of our lives, it is good for us to be in God's word. In the intimacy of the presence of God who encourages our inner being to look from ourselves and circumstances to see the God who is in control and who holds us when we love ourselves and holds us when we are broken to pieces.

Melissa and I spent a week in Florida on tour and vacation. This was not really a relaxing vacation this time; it was more of a "TourVenture". Budget rental car problems, LOTS of driving, breezy so not quite as idyllic. I'm whining right? Well we did have one night where we shelved our plans to "do" anything, just so we could watch the sun set off the Florida Keys. Quiet, just watching, listening, feeling and being still. It was then that I could finally hear that still small voice saying "remember your God" In that moment the familiar words of Jesus came flooding into my mind, my body, my spirit, my soul.

"Come to me, you who are weary and heavy burdened - and I will give you rest"!

Even in the middle of my polar plunge Yes my soul, put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God!

"I See You" - A Christmas Encouragement 

Christmas has a lot of meaning in our world, and it means different things for different people. There is the fun of the Christmas "spirit" with the giving and receiving of gifts, the childlike imagination of Santa Claus, the quiet and dark of the season where the stars shine so brightly on a cold night. And of course for the Christian, it is the celebration of promise fulfilled in the babe in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ.

Regardless of where you are on this spirit and spiritual spectrum, one thing that is probably most powerful for people around the globe is the importance of belonging and impact of family and of community. If you have or have had that strong sense of family and community, I praise God with you! I pray that family remains strong and moments filled with joy. I have come from one of those families, imperfect, but mine, and one that I have been grateful.

And yet this time of year is also one filled with quite a bit of stress, but probably more than that - loneliness.

My hunch is that loneliness at Christmas brings to many of us the illusion of perfection, one that just doesn't exist in families, even with the first one with Adam and Eve. There is regret for sins left unconfessed and unforgiven. There is the chair that now sits empty that was once filled with the love that we miss so dearly. There is the distance that separates loved ones and a nostalgia that we long for. And there is also the joy that comes that we so dearly enjoy and so desperately want to hold onto. For these and other reasons, Christmas is also a very lonely time of year for many people. And for some of us, we may wonder if anyone sees us.

This Christmas, as we've shared concerts talking about the characters and story of the Nativity, there is one idea that has been quietly growing in my heart and that is this. That baby in the manger is God almighty saying to you and to me "I SEE YOU"!

In the garden, God saw Adam and Eve in their nakedness, having broken relationship with God and with each other launching all mankind into a holy and spiritual deficit that we can't recover from on our own. But in that moment, God said effectively "I See You". He covered their nakedness and promised one to come that would crush the enemy.

In the Old Testament, God says to the captives in Babylon "I See You". Sin has carried you into captivity, but I will be with you and when the time has been completed I will restore you.

To the small of Bethlehem, God says "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” - Though you are small, I SEE YOU, the restoration will come!

And in the manger of Bethlehem, the virgin gives birth to her first born, a son, calling him Emmanuel - that "God With Us" would save his people. God in human flesh cries out and in effect the voice of God now speaks "I See You".

In the Upper room Jesus will say "Take and Eat, Take and Drink" this is FOR YOU, because I see you. On the cross he will say "It is FINISHED" and in the Garden he will look at a broken believer who is desperate to find the body of her Lord and say to her "Mary".

For all of the lonely, the broken, and those who feel shattered, the manger in Bethlehem reminds you and me that God Sees YOU, God sees US! And as the angels sing and shout "GLORY" "GO and SEE", our hearts pound just a little harder. The edge of hard memories softens. Our social status no longer matters, what we've done and left undone stops for a moment for you and I to go and peer into the manger and see God staring back at you and me... "I SEE YOU"

Yes, it is good to wait quietly for the Salvation of our Lord!

May you have a full and Merry Christmas! God Sees You, You are not alone!

Events

Feb25

Chapel @ Wisconsin Lutheran High School

Mike will play guitar with the Wisco Chapel worship team for a special Ash Wednesday service. You can check out the chapel service live on the Wisco livestream.

Mar2

LWMS Event @ St. Paul's Lake Mills

St. Paul's Lake Mills, 1530 South Main Street, Lake Mills

Mike will be sharing with the Lutheran Women's Missionary Society about encouraging and walking with young adults:

HOPE AND THE BROKEN ROAD - UNDERSTANDING THE JOURNEY OF EMERGING ADULTS In our church body, much of our history has been spent creating a path for spiritual growth from cradle to grave and yet it seems that we struggle to keep teens and young adults connected to that narrow road. About every 15-20 years, a new group of people is given a label that tends to stereotype an entire generation. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z - you get the point. As many books and articles are written about these emerging cultures, not enough attention is paid to the unique realities that young people face in the 18-25 time of life. In this session we take a harder look at what some call the "University Moment" and the challenges to identity, intimacy and freedom and why walking WITH them through their doubts, questions, arrogance and pride as older adults is so important.

Apr23

WELS Staff Ministers Conference

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Martin Luther College, 1995 Luther Ct, New Ulm

Mike will be leading a couple plenary sessions regarding the challenges facing young adults and lessons they have shared with us on walking with them. Keeping and promoting a growing relationship with Jesus at the forefront of the college years.

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