Category Archives: Personal

A Thanksgiving Letter

Here’s a fun blast from the past. I wrote this to our Launch Team and supporters a before we launched into weekly worship services. God has continued to pour out blessings and grow this church. A fun look back!

DAILY ILLUMINATION | Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life.

Dear MainStreet friends,

On the eve of Thanksgiving 2011, Keri and I have much to be thankful for.

The past year has been perhaps the most difficult and most satisfying year of our lives.  One year ago, I was unemployed and scrambling to raise seed money to start planting MainStreet. We had just found out we were pregnant, and my superhuman pregnant wife had picked up a second job at the mall for the holidays, while going to school two nights a week, trying to keep our bills paid. I was working day and night casting vision and gathering support , but was discouraged I couldn’t provide financially for my family.

Our small Launch Team was a bit tired and discouraged moving into Christmas wondering where we would find enough people to move our mission forward. A year ago we were just beginning our relationship with Excelsior Covenant and it would…

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Cabin 11: A Trip Down Memory Lane

tvAfter marveling at the framed masterpieces of key moments in my life decorating the walls, I realized this was only the beginning. The rest of the room Jesus’ prepared for me was filled with other personal touches. Photo collages decorated the dresser and night stands with candid shots of Keri and my wedding day, my graduation from Seminary. Personal moments captured by the Holy Spirit’s camera at the birth of our children, key spiritual conversations, moments of surrender, and laughing after a silly fight. Striking black and white shots of key people who have influenced me — professors, pastors, authors, friends and family.

A television? Yes, like any Motel 6 I was shocked to find a standard looking television in my room at the Father’s Cabin. I could not fathom Jesus wanting me to spend my time here watching Pawn Stars or Late Night starring Jimmy Fallon. Very curious, I walked over to the television and picked up the channel guide and remote.  A personal note from Jesus read: Continue reading Cabin 11: A Trip Down Memory Lane

God’s Gourmet Chef

 

Today I want to share a personal update of sorts.

Pastors wear a lot of hats.

For example, today I was negotiating a lease with our landlord and consulting with our architect for our building project when I received a call from a person in rural Minnesota asking me to pray with him for his estranged family that lives in our area. Now I’m researching 1st century socio-political realities in light of our current political situation for a sermon, organizing a window washing project, and catching up on some admin tasks.

Yet, my favorite hat to wear as a pastor is what I’ll call a “gourmet chef of the Word.” You’ve heard of “Hell’s Kitchen”? Well, I serve in Heaven’s Kitchen cooking up a fresh variety of truth-saturated appetizers, soul nourishing meals, and irresistibly delicious desserts from God’s Word. With each recipe I try, my greatest hope is that you will “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8)! For I am all too aware that “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from God”

The weekly sermon is probably the “main dish” that I spend most time preparing. But Apostle Peter would be quick to say that in order to “grow up” in our faith we need more than one meal a week! We need to drink daily of the “pure spiritual milk” of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2-3). A baby will die without multiple feedings a day on momma’s milk. Why do we try to get away with a one or two feedings a week in our spiritual growth?

So, I have begun preparing other smaller snacks for my congregation to nibble on between our Sunday gatherings. I share these goodies at my Daily Illumination blog. I am  currently offering deeper reflections on our 1 Peter study along with many other devotional writings. There’s nothing more rewarding than feeding others a good meal; and there’s nothing more disheartening than preparing a lavish dinner and having nobody show up.

(By the way, that’s how pastors sometimes feel when people don’t show up for worship: “Wow, I slaved away in this kitchen/study all week to prepare this tasty sermon just for you, and you don’t bother to get out of bed for it.”)

Let me tell you about a new dish to check out!  As you may have seen, I am experimenting with a new 5-minute “audio devotional” called The Mailbox Podcast. These are fun, spontaneous spiritual thoughts I share on my 1,000 foot walk to my mailbox and back. Its a chance for you to overhear my own thoughts as I attempt to find God’s truth penetrating the everyday moments of life. Its another way I’m trying to bring “Reports from the intersection of faith and life.” Listen to a sample here.

Now, let me share the more personal reason behind all my dishes I’m cooking up for you to enjoy. I discovered this summer that I had neglected my own soul’s cravings this past year and was not nourishing my own spirit. I was empty. Parched. Exhausted. Stressed. Burnt out. Distant from God.

In July and August the alarm bells were going off and I needed to re-evaluate my own life-rhythms and pastoral priorities. I stopped beginning my days by opening the laptop and answering emails. Instead I have devoted the first part of my day to quiet time with God and His Word. I am carving out larger portions of my weekly hours for study and prayer. As your pastor I cannot lead you places I’m not already going.

So, I have been seeing the big difference my daily quiet time or walks with God are having on my soul. I find myself inspired, hearing from God, seeing lessons in nature and my daily routine, and I just want to share them. That’s the real reason for the Mailbox Podcast….because even if nobody else listens to them, they are fueling my spirit and the process of making them is feeding my soul!

Do any of you journal? These are very much my “audio journal.” My grandkids will get ahold of them when I’m dead and gone, and hopefully enjoy a window into my life with God.

So, I do hope you’ll  subscribe to Daily Illumination and listen to the podcast as you drive to work, do the dishes, exercise, etc. Many of you have other places you go for spiritual nourishment each day — YouVersion reading plans, sermons, podcasts, etc. That’s great! I just invite everyone to find your own way of letting “the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).

Regardless, I’ll keep my chef’s hat on and keep cooking up goodies for whoever wants to stop by for a snack or a meal!

Bon appetit! 

Feeling the Love at MainStreet!

Here’s a sweet and thoughtful video our church put together for Keri and I for Pastor Appreciation Month. All I can say in return is “Thanks for being such a fun, grace-filled, caring and committed church family to lead.”

I hear other pastors complain about the shenanigans they have to put up with — petty complaints, internal division, relational conflicts, stagnant attenders going through the motions, disgruntled elders, stubborn old church ladies, etc. —  and I always walk away thinking, “Wow, I’m blessed to shepherd this particular flock!” Continue reading Feeling the Love at MainStreet!

LIFE VERSES 9: Acts 17:17

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In this series I’m sharing some of the Scriptures that have most radically influenced my own life and faith. Read full series here.

I love the moment in The Lord of the Rings when Samwise turns to Frodo and asks, “I wonder what kind of a tale we’ve fallen into?” The two hobbits perceptively realized that their lives were somehow part of a story far bigger than themselves, and though small in stature they had an enormous role to play in the unfolding drama.

In college and seminary, I was likewise finding my own life swept up into a bigger story and trying to discover my unique role in the plot. The version of The Story that shaped my imagination, and soon my vocation, is the Book of Acts.

I felt pulled into the ongoing drama of God calling ordinary men and women like Paul and Stephen, Lydia and Priscilla, to boldly advance the movement and message of Jesus across the known world. Acts tells the stories of Paul being led by the Spirit into unchartered territories where he established a base of operations in someone’s house or a rented out lecture hall. He took up part time work as a leather worker making tents during the day, and then sought out ministry opportunities after hours. Continue reading LIFE VERSES 9: Acts 17:17

On Christ the Solid Rock We Stand

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Jeremy back in 2010 dreaming of a future church. Lonely and scared…but choosing faith.

Over 5 Years ago I sat on this rock feeling extremely lonely and scared. God called Keri and I to start a church in Mound, and I often came to pour out my doubts to the LORD in prayer on this rock.

Then one night I heard God speak Matthew 16 directly to me, “Jeremy, upon this rock I will build my church in Mound, and not even the gates of Hell will be able to stop it.” I needed to be reminded that Jesus was going to build his church — not me. :)  Feeling a lot lighter, I walked away and set to work in doing my part. God did the rest.

This past Sunday on our all-church prayer walk this place of doubt and loneliness became a place of joyful community and worship as we celebrated God’s faithfulness to His promise (see top photo). Keri and I obeyed God, stepped out in faith, and God made good on his promise to build (and He’s still building) the most magnificent church!

Thanks to all those MainStreeters who have been been a direct answer to our prayers and who have helped God form this rock solid church. May we always stay anchored on Christ our Rock, our firm foundation.

Read some journal posts I wrote a few years ago about this significant rock here.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, 

All other ground is sinking sand.”

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Jeremy sharing the story of the rock this past Sunday.

Upon This Rock

Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 2)

The next time someone makes you feel guilty for taking a much needed vacation, consider sharing with them the following case for biblical rest and vacation. (Note: The following make the case for both a weekly day off (sabbath rest) and occasional extended vacations (a week or two)).

We are a mess without sabbath. I think sabbath rest is largely an unAmerican practice. America prides itself in hard work, ambition, self-determination and getting ahead. “The early bird gets the worm” describes the folk wisdom of our founding Father’s better than Jesus’ invitation to “Consider the lilies, they neither toil nor spin, and God takes care of them…” Compared to other countries around the world, Americans work longer days, take less vacation days, bring our work home more, and value “getting ahead” and “climbing the career ladder” more than most. How is this working for us? We’re richer than most but also lead the world in mental health issues, unhappiness, discontentment, broken marriages and dysfunctional families (often due to placing career advancement over family priorities). Are we working ourselves to death? Are we not busier than we’ve ever been as a society and least content?

We were hardwired for sabbath. Built into our DNA (and the entire created order) is the need for a healthy, balanced work-rest rhythm. God worked for 6 days and then rested on the 7th. We are hardwired to do the same. There are times to cultivate the fields, plant and harvest; and then there are time we are to let the ground lie fallow and rest. Our minds, bodies, souls and spirits require the same fallow time of healing and rest. We are human beings, not human doings. Our value and worth is defined by our creator who made us in His Image; our self-worth and value is not defined by how much we accomplish, how well we perform, and whether or not we met our daily quota at work. Do we believe this? If so, does our actual behavior line up with this belief?

God modeled sabbath. Again, if God chose to rest a full day after working 6, then what makes us think we can outwork God? Why do we think we can go 20 days without a sabbath, when God modeled a 6 + 1 rhythm? Jesus also modeled healthy boundaries and restorative times with God alone. He didn’t heal every person who came up to him. He didn’t go to every city that awaited his message. He had limits and knew them.  Continue reading Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 2)

Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 1)

I’m currently trying to enjoy some time away from work — for me that means church related stuff and ministry situations. My email ‘Out of the Office’ notice is on, and my voicemail alerts people that I am not taking calls.

I asked our leadership team not just for a vacation (which typically means family time, traveling, etc.) but for a “spiritual renewal leave” which I define as time away from day-to-day tasks (sermon prep, meetings) and ministering to people (a drain for a high introvert) to engage fully in things that are truly life-giving and soul-recharging. Since I’m a high introvert who is constantly surrounded by people, this means spending a lot of time alone.

I’m largely spending my time reading 2 or 3 good books (both pastor-related and just for fun), reading those books on the boat or while sipping a drink by a pool/beach, doing some writing to stimulate my brain muscles and spark fresh inspiration for future sermon series, and, of course, playing some golf and doing some lawn work. I also try to catch up with a friend or two outside my normal church social circle and possibly browse a guitar store or two. Continue reading Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 1)