Welcome to the Table

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“I’m so glad I’m an AMERICAN!”
A man I have never met before sauntered  into the sauna at Lifetime Fitness, looked me in the eye, and said those words in a boasting, sort of challenging way.
It was so jarring that I sort of just looked at him and gave him a halfway smile.
He went on to talk about how he works with a lot of people who aren’t born here in the U.S.A., but boy is he glad to be an AMERICAN!
After he walked out of the sauna, I was thinking about his words. I would agree with him that I am grateful that I was blessed to be born where I was born. But I’m also so grateful that our nation, our state, our city, and our church gets to welcome people born in other nations!
Every Thursday night, we open our home and welcome friends to come in, to eat together, to pray for each other, and to discuss the holy Scriptures. Last night, we had the privilege of welcoming a man into our home who was born in South Africa. We welcomed him and his wife and two month old baby to our table and into our fellowship and community. We discussed the Scriptures and how to live out the commands of Jesus. We shared our prayer needs. We broke bread.
It was a holy moment that was also chaotic (we all have a whole mess of little kids!), fun, and refreshing to the soul.
3 years ago we were blessed to have a couple born in Brazil in our small group. 2 years ago we were blessed to have a man born in Nepal in our group. They are all still a beautiful part of the MOSAIC that makes up our church; they are just doing life in different circles (small groups).
I love that our church is a beautiful MOSAIC of different broken, imperfect people, from different cultures and different backgrounds. We have baptists, charismatics, lutherans, and catholics all coming together to learn what it means to LOVE God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We are learning together what it means to love and SERVE those who are both near to us and far from us culturally. We are learning what it means to be a disciple/follower of Jesus: to KNOW Jesus, to BE like Jesus, and to DO that things that Jesus did.
It’s not perfect but I’m so glad that everyone is welcome at the Table. And no matter where we were born or how we were raised, what we have done or what has been done to us, we are journeying together to follow Jesus, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Coaching Your Kids

This past weekend I had the chance to go snowshoeing up in Rocky Mountain National Park. I could have gone alone, but I decided to take my 8 year old son Joshua along with me. He had never snowshoed before, so I knew there was probably going to be a bit of a learning curve.

I’ve heard it said, “If you want to go FAST, go alone. If you want to go FAR, go together.” I want my son to go far in life, so I decided to invite Joshua along with me on this adventure.

I knew that this was a great opportunity to teach my son about perseverance, overcoming challenges, and the power of positivity.

Although the pace was slower than if I had gone alone, and although we had to stop pretty often to let Joshua catch his breath, I am so proud of my son for never complaining and for steadfastly climbing a mountain with me!

Together we finished a 2 hour hike in snowshoes, crossed two frozen lakes, and ascended to an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level. It was cold, it was snowing, and it felt like there was no oxogen to breathe! But we did it! And we did it together.

To celebrate, we headed down to Estes Park and scarfed down a large pepperoni pizza and talked about how good it felt to face our fears and to climb a mountain together.

The picture of my son and I on top of a mountain reminds me of the role I play as teacher, coach, mentor, and father to my son. I want Joshua to go further than I’ve gone. I want him to know that he can climb mountains and face his fears. And I hope that someday, he climbs mountains with HIS son.

Whether or not you have kids, you can invest in the lives of the next generation. It’s great to accomplish our dreams, but I think it’s even greater to be Hero Makers and to help the next generation go further, faster.

Who can you invest in? Who can you bring alongside you, even if it means traveling at a slower pace?

Imagine how differently our churches, our cities, our world would look if we all intentionally invested in those coming up behind us. Imagine if our ceiling, the heights we ascended, were the floor, the starting point, for those that come after us. That’s a world I want to live in. I want to invite you to join with me in creating that better future.

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CARRY THE WEIGHT

I pastor a church of about 250 people. We have a great prayer team and amazing small group leaders! But still, the weight of the prayer requests and the burdens of the people in our small/medium sized church is pretty incredible. I know I’m still pretty new to this whole “lead pastor” thing. I have a hard time imaging what it’s like pastoring a church of 500 or more and what those burdens are like!

But maybe it’s like parenting? When you are a parent to one kid, their needs feel almost overwhelming. Then you add more kids and your parenting muscles get stronger. Maybe it’s the same with pastoring?

God builds your prayer and shepherding muscles so you can care for more and more. I know I need to continue to also learn from Moses and take Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18). Some of that probably just comes as a church matures in age.

Anyways- my prayer is that God would teach me to know how to number my days and to let Him carry my burdens and the burdens of the people I shepherd and lead. Which made me think of this awesome song:

I don’t know what burdens you are carrying. But my prayer for you is that you too can learn that you don’t need to carry the weight alone. Let God carry your burden. Let God carry YOU.

Better days are coming my friend. We’re all on a journey. The best is yet to come!

 

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Feeling Overwhelmed?

overwhelmed-graphicReal Life Here: I’m so very tired. And I’m so very tired of sick kids. (Honestly, I’m just a little tired of my kids). And yet…

And yet, at the same time I feel so incredibly grateful for the many, many blessings is my
life. We suffered through 3 years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, not knowing if we would ever have a child, let alone 3 kids! And now we have been blessed with 3 amazing kids!

12472782_10101698954324820_5749570881580611229_nYes, they are exhausting. Yes, having three kids 5 years old and under consumes ALL. YOUR. TIME. And energy! But they are still such a blessing. And I love each one so very much. Just look at those adorable faces! (Just please start sleeping through the night kids! In your own beds!)

I look around our beautiful suburban home and think how quickly it goes from clean and organized to looking like a disaster zone. And yet, I’m so incredibly grateful for this house God has provided for us. Our first “real home” in our marriage where we don’t have to share walls with someone! A beautiful home with tons of space to host small groups, leadership meetings, and newcomer lunches. I’m so thankful for this home and all the ministry we get to do in it.

And then there’s the church. Being a Church Planter means going to bed every night with things left undone on your to-do list. Starting a church is a lot like starting a new business or non-profit- there are ALWAYS more things to do! But as exhausting as church planting can be…man- I am so THRILLED that I get to do it!

This is what I was put here on this earth to do!

I feel like my whole life was a training ground that prepared me to do this. And everyday, I thank God that I get to do this.

So yes, today I am tired and overwhelmed and feel like a failure as a dad and a husband, but I know that God’s got this. When I am weak, He is strong.

If you are tired and overwhelmed and feel like you are not measuring up as a spouse or parent or at your job, I want to encourage you to know that

YOU.

ARE.

ENOUGH.

Don’t strive so hard. God’s got this. God’s got YOU! Count your blessings and maybe take a nap. Or get another cup of coffee.

Get your hopes up.

Rejoice in HOPE, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 (ESV)

The Importance of Guest Surveys

I was working out at the gym this morning when I saw one of our Mosaic Guest Surveys downloadcome through my inbox on my phone. I always love reading the surveys we send out to second time guests. As I read this one, I found myself pumping my fist and saying “Yes!” out loud. At they gym. Fortunately, pretty much everyone was in their own world with ear buds in, so no one seemed to notice.

Here’s what I read on my phone at the gym:

  1. What influenced your decision to attend Mosaic a second time? My wife and I have never truly found a community here in Minnesota (moved here 3 years ago), and it felt like we were pushed this direction by God to have Mosaic came into our lives at a time when we needed to let go of doubt and false labels.
  2.  What was most memorable about your first or second visit to Mosaic? Many of the messages have lately been directly relevant to us lately.
  3.  Would you feel comfortable inviting your friends to attend Mosaic with you? Why or why not? Sure, I appreciate a strong community and people looking for a home may find it with Mosaic. Actions speak louder than words, and perhaps people will ask what’s uplifted me recently.
  4.  How could we improve your experience? I was actually talking with my wife about this last Saturday on the drive home and last night. I never really grew up thinking what could make things better for me, I grew up fairly poor and took heart in trying to service others through words and actions. Since moving to Minnesota however I haven’t spent much time outward. God has blessed us now and I feel like our blessings should be paid forward.

Here are 3 reasons why I think it’s a great idea to send out some sort of survey to your guests who come back a second time.

1.) Unfiltered Feedback. Sending out surveys is a good way to find out if your preaching specifically and your church in general is accomplishing the mission God has given you. It’s good to get feedback from people who regularly attend your church. But they already know you and hopefully love you! Getting survey results from guests is a great way to get unfiltered feedback. When guests are telling you that your messages are relevant to what they are going through, you know you are on the right track! If you aren’t getting that kind of feedback…well, maybe you need to change what you are preaching on.

2.) Encouragement for Your Team. When you get cool stories from your surveys, you can pass those along to encourage your team. They can be used to remind your team why they go through so much effort each Sunday to pull Sunday services off.

3.) Tool to Improve Your Team. Occasionally, guests will let us know that there is an area that needs addressing. It might be something that has become invisible to us because  we just don’t see things the same way as a first or second time guest.

If you are a church leader or even a business leader, I would encourage you to figure out how you can offer a simple, short guest survey to those that are new to your church or business. Hopefully you’ll find it’s worth it for you too!

Dealing With Loss

Last week, my wife and I experienced the pain and loss of our fourth miscarriage.

To be honest, I’m still coming to grips with it.  I was just starting to get excited about the idea of child #3 and then…and then my wife tells me she is spotting…and since we’ve been down this road before, I know exactly what that means.  Then the doctor confirms that the HCG levels have dropped dramatically and that dream of a third child is gone.  For now.  I still cling to hope that God will bless us with another child.  I also know that we are incredibly blessed with two amazing, beautiful, funny, strong willed children.  And if our family continues to be just the four of us, I will continue to thank God for the wonderful blessings he has given us. But man, it still hurts.  It hurts so much.

This past year we have lost so much.  Friendships, possible futures, a community that we were a part of.  Sometimes that pain of all those losses literally knocks me down and I just collapse on the floor or the couch or my bed or wherever.  I will have trouble breathing and feel like there is a huge rock in my stomach. My heart will start to race and my mind will start racing even faster.  Often this happens at night- which probably explains why sometimes I lie in bed for hours before falling asleep.

So what do we do when we experience such terrible suffering? Do we give up? Give in to bitterness? Some do.

But Paul tells us in Philippians 4:7 that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” and in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  That word “guard” is the idea of a fortress or citadel.  God wants to be our castle of hope and guard us against the arrows of the enemy dripping with the poison of worry and anxiety.   And then God wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit so that we can overflow with hope.  Not a natural hope that we conjure up; instead, a supernatural hope that can only come from God.

And so I run to my heavenly Father.  I let him be my fortress and strong tower.  Daily, I ask for the Holy Spirit to fill me up with his HOPE and PEACE.

ShalomBut its not easy.  In fact, its so tough that my wife has HOPE (tikvah) tattooed her wrist and I have PEACE (shalom) tattooed on my wrist!  Its so that every time we look down, we are reminded to find our HOPE and PEACE in God alone.  To look beyond our circumstances and our losses and know that our Father loves us and grieves with us.  And we make it through another day.  And God continues to give us HOPE and PEACE and to heal our hearts.  And someday, he WILL wipe away every tear and there will be no more pain or loss or suffering.  You can bank on that.

 

EL