Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Funny (not really - just a figure of speech) how one phone call, sounding like all the rest as it rings, can take a day (week, month, year or life) and turn it on its ear. Such has been the experience of our family over the past few days.

Having just returned home from my son's (Jordan's) graduation from UTI in Chicago (some great pictures of that event on my Facebook account), I had just about gotten settled back in for a very demanding week when came "the call." In a matter of moments, our week went from one filled with certainty to one that continues to be in this moment, very uncertain.

"The Call" was the one where we discovered that Tonya's dad had been hospitalized in Florida (where her parents winter) because of his inability to breath. While we knew he had been dealing with this for a long time, it had never reached this degree of severity. In the hours that followed, we were told that barring a miracle, he would not be going home...he was not going to get better...he was not going to be with us much longer.

Many of you have experienced the flurry of activity that happened next: plane ticket purchased (man, do they gouge you on that one!); school & work schedules adjusted; family contacted; and a long sleepless night as you are filled with the uncertainty of whether or not you can get there before he is gone.

After my parents got Tonya to the airport early Monday (thanks!), I began working on the wave of other uncertainties: Tonya is one of our key singers (Easter musical twice this week); Tonya has the special music and plays the piano at our Maundy Thursday service; Tonya gets the kids back and forth from school & work; Tonya has food waiting when I get home for supper; Tonya is playing a special piece for our Resurrection service Sunday. Parent teacher conferences & Honor Society inductions to attend & celebrate...somehow. Uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty.

But then the certainties started rolling in: people to fill the gaps in food, transportation, work, piano playing, singing, and most importantly, a vast array of praying people gathered around us and the needs of the moment. And believe it or not, these are the little things (not unimportant, just not most important).

In the category of "Most Important," we found rest in the certainty of her dad's (Bob's) life well-lived for Christ - a life that guarantees when his eyes close here they'll open in eternity with Jesus. Comfort was secured again in the certainty that her mom would be taken care of and loved for however many years she has.

We have found the greatest rest in knowing that God is absolutely in control of the entire situation. Oh sure, the week has brought numerous unknowns & uncertainties, but it has brought into razor-sharp focus what we know for sure. And there is no amount of uncertainty that can diminish the certainties that bring us strength, hope and peace. We pray that you have that assurance as well!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little Faith

Timing has dictated that this article is getting written 5 days after the actual event, but I just have to tell you what God did last Thursday at English Valleys High School in the little town of North English, Iowa.

If you haven't looked yet, be sure and go to either our church website at or become my "friend" at Facebook, and you'll see some amazing pictures from an event entitled, "The Strength Show." The night featured a local Christian band called "The Ransom Project" ( and a high school friend of mine, Mike Gillette. I won't give you the background on either, but encourage you to check out their respective sites.

The Ransom Project was fantastic...Mike's part was amazingly unbelievable...but what really blew us away was what GOD did. I confess, I had lost some sleep the few nights before the event as I went over and over all the details, wondering what I'd forgotten and what I could have done better or differently in preparation. The fact is, I didn't know HOW it was going to turn out, and I was just hoping and praying that NONE of us were going to be embarassed by the night! I mean, both groups had made significant concessions to make this possible (fees, travel, etc.) and I didn't want them to feel that they had wasted their time...OR effort.

As it normally goes, we were running a little late by the time we got everything set up and headed out to the EV Malt Shop for supper. And we were running even later by the time we returned, getting back to the high school just 15 minutes before we were to start. Little did we expect the surprise that awaited us as we approached the school parking lot!

I had secretly hoped and prayed for 100 to come out - I mean, that would be respectable, wouldn't it? Instead, as we got near, we could see that the parking lot was nearly full! what were we going to do? We parked and headed inside, only to discover that the gym was already FULL and people weren't slowing down in their arrival! We ended up putting chairs all across the front of the bleachers (about 50) and it was SRO (standing room only) in the stands (never thought about it before, but that makes some stupid sense - standing in the stands!). We took rough counts and calculated around 400 people came that night!

I got to participate in the show, and was privileged to make some closing comments about the strength that can be found only in Christ - a strength offered to any and all who desire it. But perhaps the best part of all was seeing a community enjoy being together as a community! How easily we can settle for functioning as a bunch of independent small groups when God has designed us to function as one large group: interdependent, supportive and mutually beneficial.

My faith was too small...again. But I believe that God's purposes triumphed over all, and that this will end up being just one of many good things that God has in store for our community as we pull together...and seek to honor Him!

Monday, March 15, 2010


I had the wonderful privilege of getting to sit back last Friday for an enjoyable evening of music with the English Valleys music program. Amid the cacaphony that results from putting together a packed house with a plethora of instruments, I had one of those little "aha" moments come to me.

I've got to tell you - the music was borderline spectacular. Most people don't expect much from a small school, but the last couple of years have seen a marked improvement in both the vocal and instrumental arenas. Classic, contemporary, marches, improvs, old favorites and ones yet-to-be. I thoroughly enjoyed it all!

But in the midst of all this enjoyment it occurred to me that the most important part of the night was the very part that nobody pays any attention least not in the audience. You see, for perhaps a solid two minutes before the instruments began to play, they gave focused attention to the ancient art called tuning.

To the untrained observer, it seems to be just a lot of noise. But to the musician, it is the absolutely non-negotiable preamble to the soon-to-follow orchestrated effort. Different instruments, different notes, different styles, different tempos...all focused on moving towards making one sound...or more correctly, arriving at one note.

Even if you're not much of a music person, can you imagine what would happen if every player showed up a couple minutes before the concert, pulled out their horn and just started playing? Words like horrendous, ear-piercing and confusing are some of the first adjectives that pop to mind! Quite simply, if the band doesn't take time to tune first, they will never make the music they were intended to make.

You're probably way ahead of me, but it suddenly occurred to me that this goes way beyond a band applies to life! And the simple fact is that nobody can "tune your horn" but you, because nobody plays like you! And if we refuse to take the time to "turn our horn," the entire band will suffer and frankly, nobody's going to listen to us for long!

Bottom Line? It's not about how well we play, but how well we play together. It's about how seriously we take our responsibility to "tune" our life before "playing." Listen closely to those around you: are you "in tune" - or are you so busy "playing your horn" that you have no idea what anyone else is "playing"?

Take some time to "tune" today. See how you can complement those around you can get on the same page of music, aligning tempo, rhythm and sound. You'll be totally amazed at what we can "play" together when we focus on making just one sound!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons From A Childhood Song

“Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

For those who have grown up around church, one of the very first songs we often learn as a child involves holding up our pointer finger over our head and singing…any guesses? The song is “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” Children all around the world sing this tune, proclaiming in a multitude of languages some of our foundational beliefs. Interestingly enough, the songs we learn as children, and more importantly, the Word of God upon which they are founded, never stop teaching us…not even when you get “old” like me!

Recently, God pointed out something brand new to me as I was reading Matthew 5:16. And the lesson came from the most unlikely place: the word “LET.” I believe that God may just want you to remember something as well about this innocent looking word, so please…read on!

Notice that this verse doesn’t say “make” but “let” your light shine – we don't have to generate light; it flows out of us as believers. Far too often, we minimize the inherent power of the light that is present in us as followers of Christ, and we quite easily slip into trying to “make” light – focusing a lot more on “doing” than “being.”

I spent a good deal of time last weekend trying to clean this past season’s deposit of mud and grime off of our family mini-van, paying special attention to the headlights, as they are pretty important once the sun starts to set! Not only do they help us to see, but also just as importantly, they help others to see our vehicle.

In a very similar way, our most important part in letting our light shine is to guard our hearts from sin so that it doesn’t build up on our hearts and dim the light of Jesus within us; just as that road dirt can dim the most powerful headlights from accomplishing their purpose. By keeping our hearts clean, the light of Jesus will clearly seen by everyone with whom we come into contact.

You see, there is no light we can generate that will draw people to Jesus. Just as the moon is bright only because it reflects the light of the sun, our light shines only because of reflecting the light of The Son to others. Our privilege…yes, our responsibility, then…is to make the most of this fact and let our light shine on as many as possible. Even when you don’t think so, don’t worry…it’s shining!

Have you ever thought about the fact that light always costs something? A flashlight “spends” batteries, a campfire “spends” fuel, and the sun “spends” enormous amounts of energy. What’s that mean to us? That we must choose to shine, even though it may cost us something, and not keep our light “under a bushel,” as the old song goes.

Friends, the world needs us to shine, for in a place that is increasingly “dark” to so many, light finds its highest purpose. If I walked around in the daylight with a flashlight on, you’d think I was a few cards short of a full deck! No, light is meant for darkness, so I encourage you not only to let your light shine, but also to constantly be aware of new places and lives into which to shine!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A One Point Message

You might remember that last week I recounted the story of me finding a book to read while visiting my son in Chicago. I've continued to read it every day since, and haven't been able to shake it's core idea (accompanied by some great examples, should you want to check it out).

Just what is this teaching? That as a communicator, our goal should always be (and I paraphrase here) to pick out just one idea (instead of the classic multiple good points), and drive it home with all the passion, originality, insight and humility we possess.

The benefits are pretty obvious: Easier to tell it and easier to remember it. As a pastor, I preach for life change, and anything I can do to help my listeners remember what God has taught us together makes it all that more likely that they'll actually practice what they've remembered.

I don't want to even attempt to lay the whole book out - nor should I (who knows what God might do for you if I make you read it? It's been great for me!). Establishing the setting for this blog was crucial, though, as I try to give you the one point.

As I continue to process the book, God has been asking me this one simple question. "Kirk," He says, "Do you believe that your life is a one point message?" WOW - didn't see that one coming! And it's really caused me to think. What would people say, especially those who have known me for a while, if asked what the one point is to my life? Would they have any idea? And if they did, would it be the "one point" I want it to be?

What I want the "one point message" (kind of a Statement of Purpose, I guess) of my life to be is this: To humbly love people as God loves me, extending the same grace I enjoy, in quality and quantity, so that they might grasp that "Life" isn't life without Jesus at the center of it.

A confession? I had to step aside for about 10 minutes to make sure the words above truly expressed my heart. A good exercise - especially if you've never done it before. What's the "one point message" of your life? If you're not sure...or maybe more importantly, don't know if others are sure...why not take a little time right now to change that? Then (whether you're a pastor or not) - Let's Get Preaching!

"Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."