Archive for the ‘Iowa’ Tag

Building Excitement   Leave a comment


 

Iowa fans make an "I" with their arm...

Iowa fans make an “I” with their arms as a flag is waved during the 2008 Iowa-Iowa State football game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Well, the week is here.  We are one just a few days from the annual Iowa – Iowa State football game.  This year I will get to go.  I find myself every year gaining more and more excitement as the week progresses.  For people in a state that does not have any professional teams, this is one of the biggest events of the year.  This game is so much different from any other that Iowa plays during the season.  The “normal” expectations tend to go out the window because this rivalry creates a dynamic that tends to alter both teams when they take the field.  During the rest of the season, I can cheer for Iowa State but this is the game that divisions are clear.  Whatever the outcome of the game, the excitement is what makes this week a great joy.

 

This got my thoughts going about what builds excitement in life.  As a leader, I sometimes struggle with identifying what will generate excitement within those that I lead.  I know that having a clear direction and good communication helps to facilitate excitement.  However, it is not always easy to predict what will cause a spike in excitement.  I often find myself trying a variety of different approaches and ideas.  Sometimes I am successful and other times I miss the mark completely.

 

Then I started thinking about what it would look like to see excitement build among believers.  I read in the New Testament about times when in Jesus’ ministry there was great excitement among the followers.  But it seems that the excitement is fleeting.  What would excitement in worship look like?  What would excitement in service look like?  What would excitement in spiritual growth look like?  How much of an impact could excited believers have on the communities in which they live?  I think as a church leader, I am always hoping to see those things but often missing the boat.

 

Any ideas on building excitement?  I’d love to hear them.

 

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When the Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary   2 comments


Half staff

Half staff (Photo credit: afagen)

Governor Terry Branstad ordered that all flags in the state of Iowa to fly at half-staff today in honor of Peace Officer Memorial Week.  I think that honoring those men, women, and canine who have given their lives in service of the safety of the public is very fitting.  My question is when does flying the flags at half-staff begin to lose its impact if it seems to happen frequently?  As I was walking early this morning I saw the flag at the post office flying at half-staff and for a brief moment the thought that came into my mind was:  “So what are we flying the flags at half-staff for this time.”  Again, I definitely find it  extremely important to honor all the individuals or groups of individuals that prompt the governor to issue such a directive.  I am mainly concerned that the impact is lessened by the frequency of this particular way of honoring them.

This can easily be applied to some of our rituals that are used to express our faith.  Whether  it is the sacrament of communion, the inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer each week in worship, or the reciting of the Apostles Creed, it is very easy for those sacraments and rituals to turn into activities done by rote versus times of extraordinary expressions of what we believe.  I think that this is something we need to be very aware of and work diligently to not allow ourselves to make the extraordinary ordinary.

I do not have a clear response to the question I proposed at the beginning of this post.  I merely raise the question up to hopefully begin an awareness and a dialogue about this subject.  So go ahead, give your input please.  I’m not sure that there is a “right” answer but hopefully some insightful viewpoints.

Ready to Explode   Leave a comment


A jack-in-the-box

A jack-in-the-box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever been at that point in your life that you sense something is going to happen but you have no idea what it is or when it is going to happen?  It remains me of how when I was a young boy I used to play with my jack-in-the-box.  Now I knew that as I turned that crank and the tinny music played there would come a point that the latch on the top of the box would move and the “jack” inside would come bursting out when the lid was no longer held down.  Well, I am feeling like that same situation is happening in my life and the life of the church.

I think that the church is about to explode.  I don’t know when it is going to happen and I have no idea what that truly means but I am sensing that it something is coming.  About ten years ago, I started engaging in discussions about the status of the church and how the way that we were “doing” church seemed to be becoming less and less effective in reaching people.  More and more writers and contemporary Christian leaders began to add the voices to the conversation.  More and more church gatherings were designed around the “transformation” of the church and new approaches of how to live in community.  Today the conversations are daily and the participants in the conversations have reached high number levels.

With the increased discussions comes an increase in uncertainty.  Many people are very aware that major and significant changes are coming in the lives of believers and the churches that they affiliate with but no one seems able to truly state when the arrival is going to happen and what it will look like when it does.  This creates uncertainty because we ask how we are to live in this time of transition and what steps should be taken.  The old methods and certainties associated with “being the church” are falling away and losing their effectiveness.  Yet no one is clear on what should replace them and when the right time to make replacements might be.  Like the jack-in-the-box, we continue to turn the crank and await what until “jack” jumps out.

Another way to view this change might be like watching the eaglets hatch in the nest.  Many people from throughout the country and definitely throughout Iowa watched with anticipation the Eagle Webcam last spring and this spring wanting to see the new eagles hatch from their eggs.  People would spend hours with the website up on their computers even if they had minimized the window and worked on other tasks at the time.  Much excitement and discussion was generated because of the events of the eagles’ birth.  I believe that is what is happening in the church today.  Many people are watching to see when a new birth of the church will take place.  Much excitement and discussion is being generated.  With the eagles, we had a little knowledge of what to expect.  With the church, we have much less knowledge but as we watch the shell of what we have known the church to be being chipped away, we are excited to see what will emerge.

I sense that something is about to explode.  Not sure what it is or when it will happen but the energy is building.

Good Soil   Leave a comment


Yesterday’s warm weather and today’s talk of rain has got me thinking a lot about spring.  I love spring except that it marks the start of allergy season for me.  However, I love the way that the earth and trees turn green again.  I love watching the flowers come up out of the ground and add color and beauty to the landscape.  I love the sound of birds and the increased activity of people outside.  Spring is a time when I see new life and I feel an increase of hope.

With spring comes the arrival of planting season in Iowa.  I am not fond of all the increased farm equipment that is on the roads during this season but being an Iowa boy, I do enjoy seeing all the activities of planting season.  I enjoy watching the land being worked over and the rich black soil prepared to receive the seeds.  I enjoy watching the young plants sprout up and identifying which fields are soybeans and which are corn.  This is the landscape in which I have spent most of my life.

Planting season causes me to think about the soil.  Having lived most of my life in Iowa, I take rich soil a bit for granted.  I just assume that when I turn over a piece of ground, I am going to find a nice black soil that is ready to receive whatever I am choosing to plant in it.  Having lived a short time in Nebraska, I came to realize that this is not always the case.  I used to live near the sandhills of Nebraska and on my brief visits up into those sandhills, I found a much different type of soil.  The richness of the soil has a big impact on the type of plants that can grow and the quality of plants that are produced.

All of this has reminded me of the story that Jesus told about the seeds and the soil.  He told of the scatter of the seeds on four different types of soil.  Depending on the type of soil on which the seed fell, the outcome of the seed was significantly different.  Ultimately, he pointed out the importance of having good soil on which the seed can fall so that it can take root, develop into a healthy plant, and produce an abundance of seeds.  Jesus was trying to explain the importance of us being rich soil so that the seeds of faith may become rooted in us and produce a great harvest.

I reminded through this story of the importance for me to strive to be good soil.  I have to work the soil of my spirit very carefully, much like a farmer takes very good care of the soil of his/her fields.  I have to make sure that I am prepared to receive the seeds that the Lord scatters on my spirit.  Only then can I truly provide a good harvest for my Lord.

Not Prepared   Leave a comment


English: Looking down a rural dirt road after ...

Image via Wikipedia

I have lived in Iowa more years of my life than less.  In those years, I have been fairly accustomed to the weather patterns.  I have also discovered that as each year goes by, I like winter weather less and less.  So having only three 1+” snowfalls since November 1 has been a joy to me.  In addition to that, we have had average temperatures in the 40’s or higher most of this winter season.  Again, I am not complaining about that at all.  However, it does create a problem when a week like this one comes our way.

Let’s be honest, the weather that we are having this week is pretty normal for a week in the winter in Iowa.  The problem is that I am not at all prepared for it.  If it were a normal winter, we would have started seeing a decrease in temperatures in November and snow falls on a regular basis.  By December we would be accustomed to traipsing through snow, being bundled up, and dealing with temperatures in the 20’s and windchill in the teens or below zero almost every day.  January would arrive with more of the same but always the hope of the “January thaw” when we would have a few days in the 40’s.  But this has not been a normal winter.  I have no opportunity to be acclimated and prepared for the cold.

In life, there are times that these events for which we are not prepared come our way.  It might be an unexpected death of a loved one.  It might be a sudden job loss.  Or maybe it is a fire that destroys all we have.  There is no opportunity to prepare ourselves for such events.  We cannot ease into a new reality or be ready to deal with impact.  So what do we do with such situations?

The realization that the first major cold snap and potential on-going snowfall of the year occurring in January rather than late November brings hope to me.  I know that even if winter weather hangs on a little later into the spring this year, the overall period of time will be much shorter than what I consider norma.  My hope does not need to rest on a “January thaw” but on the inevitable arrival of a season change that most likely will occur within 2 or 2.5 months.  The big difference being that unlike the “January thaw” which only lasts a short time before we return to the bitter cold and snow, the season change means that I will not have to deal with winter again for at least eight or so months.

The hope for me in life situations that I described above is found in my faith.  I must be honest, I am not sure how individuals that do not have a belief in God and a relationship with Jesus Christ face such life situations.  My faith points me to a change of seasons of life as described by Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  I know that at the appointed time, I will change into a permanent “spring” of life.  A season when I no longer have to experience tragedies and heartaches.  A season when I no longer have to cope with the pain of life.  I am in preparation for that season.  The Lord is helping me to make the adjustments and slowly work into this new life that he is offering. 

So unlike my unpreparedness for the sudden arrival of winter to Iowa this week, I am becoming very prepared for the arrival of the new life in Jesus Christ.

It Must Be Said   Leave a comment


Photo taken by me of Herky the Hawkeye holding...

Image via Wikipedia

This is a very imporant day in the lives of many Iowans.  What is so important about this day, you may ask?  It’s the Iowa – Iowa State football game, of course.  This is the day that there usually is some level of division in our state.  It is a day filled with predictions and trash talk.  This is a day where those who are fashionwise wear black and gold while those who need a visit from the cast of the television show “What Not to Wear” put on cardinal and gold.  (Oops, some of that trash talk slipped in.)

No matter where you come down on this matter, I am sure that we can all agree — the sweetest sound to hear is “Go Hawkeyes!  BEAT State!”

Have a great day!

Heroes   1 comment


Hero (2010 film)

Image via Wikipedia

It was announced this week that the the football game between Iowa and Nebraska will be called the “Heroes Game”.  I found this rather intersting as we began a journey that may create a new football rivalry.

In a blog post I was reading this morning, the writer had interviewed some of the current Hawkeye football team that many in the state consider to be heroes.  He asked them about the heroes in their lives.  A few commented on their mothers, others made reference to historical figures such as President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.  One did refer to his father.  A common thread in their explanations as to why those named were heroes seemed to consist of thoughts such as:  they went beyond the norm, they gave to benefit others, they stood for what they determined was “right”, they took stances that may have appeared unpopular.

All of this lead me to ask the question, “Who are my heroes?”  As I examined that I thought of individuals that seemed to offer themselves for the benefit and advancement of others.  Some of these individuals were people of faith but others I have no knowledge of their faith convictions.

Throughout Scripture, we tend to identify biblical figures that have hero-like qualities; individuals like Moses, David, Joshua, Abraham, Peter, and of course, Jesus.  Some of these individuals carried out actions in dangerous situations.  Some offered themselves as leaders in the service of God.  Some even sacrificed themselves for the benefit of others.

So my question for my readers this morning is:  “Who are your heroes?  And why?”