Final Four

John 4:1-3  The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

The road to the Final Four ends this weekend in Minneapolis. All 64 teams playing in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament dreamed of making it to Minneapolis. Only the four teams playing their best made it to last night’s round – Auburn, Virginia, Texas Tech and Michigan State. An elite few of the young college players stepped up and will become household names. Like Kyle Guy who made 3 clutch free throws to win the Virginia game giving his team the opportunity to play in the championship game on Monday night.

Jesus’ team is different. Jesus evaded accusations of competition between himself and John the Baptist. Jesus’ team is not limited to an elite few. Jesus invites all to participate and become champions. When we are on Team Jesus we are surrounded not only by His love, but also by the love of our teammates.

Welcome to the team!

Obsolete Religion

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Isaiah 40: 8  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

Church life has changed dramatically from when my grandmother attended church, to me growing up in the church, to my daughter’s church experiences.

I have a young coworker who is planning a fall wedding. She is furious at the process of securing a priest to perform their ceremony. Early on they were asked to pay hundreds of dollars for a priest along with hundreds of dollars to attend a mandatory wedding retreat. Now the original priest is unable to be at the wedding, so they were asked to pay two hundred more dollars to secure the second priest. She is angry with the process and she is angry at the church. Instead of her church embracing this new couple with love, they are pushing them away.

A friend told me this week that when he visited Europe, the people there refer to religion as “something we used to do”. What? The European churches are becoming European museums. The trends from Europe usually find their way to the USA. Is this a trend that we will see in our country? Will organized religion become something our grandchildren will read about in history books?

We need a religion revival in our world. The church may look different for our children, but God’s word will stand forever. Let’s share it with the youth in our lives. Don’t let religion become obsolete.

March Madness

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Proverbs 23:18  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Is your bracket busted? Our family loves basketball. Every year, we all fill out our bracket and donate $1 in the Playter March Madness pool. It is funny how when I am filling out my bracket, I am pretty sure this is the year I will have chosen all the winning teams. And now, not even through the first weekend, my bracket is busted!

No one can predict the future. No matter how hard we study the science or statistics, only God knows what the future holds.

They play the game because we never know who will come out victorious. In life, we do not know what the future holds, but we do know who comes out victorious. (Spoiler alert – God wins!) It feels great to be on a winning team – God’s team.

Traffic Jam

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Matthew 7:13-14  Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Driving through a city, especially during rush hour, makes me incredibly anxious. Yesterday I attended a knitting retreat in the Northeast Arts District, requiring me to drive downtown Minneapolis. Driving in traffic does strengthen my prayer life! I arrived an hour before the event began (better safe than stuck in traffic) and continued reading The Book of Joy. In the book, the author Douglas Abrams was riding with  Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he asked how all his spiritual practices and beliefs affected his day-to-day interactions, like driving in traffic. This is how the Archbishop responded:

All of a sudden a car cut across the lanes in from to us and the Archbishop had to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting the other car. “There are some truly amazing drivers on the road!”, the Archbishop said with exasperation and a head-shaking chuckle. I asked him what went through his head at moments like this, and he said that perhaps the driver was on his way to the hospital because his wife was giving birth, or a relative was sick. There it was. He reacted with the inevitable and uncontrollable surprise, which is one of our instinctual responses, but then instead of taking the low road of anger, he took the high road of humor, acceptance, and even compassion. And it was gone no fuming, no lingering frustration, no raised blood pressure.

May you take the high road as you travel down life’s roads.

 

 

Embrace the Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1  There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

Friday while attending a dark sky compliance presentation, I met a college student from LA. She chose to attend a college in Minnesota because she “wanted to experience seasons”. She went on to explain in-depth the beauty of each season, including Minnesota winters.

Look for the beauty in every season of life. Slow down enough to fully live in the season you have been given. What is God saying to you? How can you glorify God in this season of life? How can you live each season to its fullest? Life is always changing. God is molding you as you move through this season into the next.

In this winter season that never seems to end, I need to make an effort to embrace winter activities. Last week I went ice skating. I haven’t skated since our kids were young. It felt amazing to be on the ice. Although, I will never be an Olympic skater, I did manage to stay upright….. and that was a win!

How will you embrace your season of life? May you find joy in everyday, not because life is always good, but because God is.

Worship

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John 4:19-24  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”       Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 

To worship means to revel in the enjoyment of someone or something we love. Everyone worships. The question is…… who or what do we worship?

Social media knows what we worship. As you check your social media feeds, what type of ads pop up? Look at your calendar. Where are you spending the majority of your time?

Worship is so much more than time we spend in church on Sunday mornings. Take a hard look at your worship routine. The Father loves you and is seeking you to worship Him daily.

Hope

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Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

It is official – Snowfall records were set in Minnesota for the most snow received in February, EVER! Governor Walz declared a State of Emergency in Steele and Freeborn Counties last night. Heavy snow and winds have reportedly stranded motorists in the area. The Minnesota National Guard is being activated to assist with search and rescue operations. Armories in Albert Lea and Owatonna are being opened to serve as shelters. Today we are under a blizzard warning, closing churches throughout the area. Winters in Minnesota are long. It is easy to fall into depression and loose hope.

Where does your hope come from? Placing our hope in the Lord makes us strong. Hope gives us the desire to continue moving forward, even when the roads are closed.

May God grant you strength to endure the winter seasons in your life. Hold on, because spring is just around the corner!