Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween = Satan?

I got this in my inbox from someone at Focus on the Family today - What do you think? Is Halloween redeemable, or should we just walk away? Do you know anyone who fell into the grips of Satan from participating in Halloween? Hmm...

Halloween has become a major unofficial American holiday. Researchers at Hallmark Cards report that 65 percent of us decorate our homes and offices for the annual event. It is second only to Christmas in retail spending at about $5 billion, and it is the third biggest party day of the year in the U.S.

The treat ends there for many thoughtful Christians, however, who understand a very troubling reality. Halloween is the high holy day for real witches and pagans, not just a night of "pretend." Several hundred thousand American pagans, Druids, and witches celebrate Halloween as a holy day called Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") or Shadowfest, a 2,000-year-old Celtic festival held to honor Samhain, the lord of earth. Pagans considered it to be the end of "life" (summer) and the beginning of "death" (winter).

Although today's pagans don't roam in black or bloody garb, snatching children, they nevertheless gather to sing ritual songs and chant ancient prayers, most of which were condemned by the early Christian church. Some still put out food offerings for the dead.

Halloween is still the primary festival celebrated by those who follow Satan, but most of our culture has absorbed the festival by embracing its supposedly innocent customs. In fact, modern witches, warlocks, pagans, and Satanists have long used the holiday as a "hook" to present their belief system as a fascinating, even benevolent religious alternative.

Certainly, for Christians to shun Halloween and other pagan practices is to swim against the cultural tide. But redirecting Halloween celebrations for our children and ourselves is one of the easier ways we can take a quiet stand.

"Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft" (Deut. 18:10).



My friend Jeff has a good take on all this (in my opinion) on his blog Rurality Bytes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Whitehouse.gov gets an overhaul

The White House web site got an overhaul and was recently moved onto open-source software called Drupal. Fast Company has an interesting article about the change.  My only thought is that there is too much content on the front page, but I like the look and the simple color scheme.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The States of Marriage and Divorce

A new report from Pew Research Center® — the 2008 American Community Survey — offers the most detailed portrait yet from the U.S. Census Bureau of marriage and divorce statistics at the state level.

Results from the report show that, in the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, men and women marry young — half of first-time brides in these states were age 24 or younger on their wedding day. Results also revealed that these states have above-average shares of women who divorced in 2007-2008, as well.

However, in Massachusetts and New York, their residents marry late — half of ever-married New York men were older than age 30 when they first wed. These states also have below-average shares of men and women who divorced in 2007-2008.

About 6 percent of Texans who have ever been married have wed three times or more. That is similar to the national average (5%), but well below the leaders in this category — the neighboring states of Arkansas and Oklahoma — where about 10 percent of all ever-married adults have had at least three spouses. In New York and Massachusetts, just 2 percent of ever-married adults have been married at least three times, placing them at the bottom on this measure among the 50 states.

Several states in the Midwest and Mountain regions have among the highest shares of men and women who are currently married. In Idaho, 58 percent of men and 56 percent of women live with a spouse. In Iowa, 56 percent of men and 53 percent of women do. In Utah, 56 percent of both men and women are currently married. At the opposite end, only 47 percent of men in Alaska are currently married, as are 48 percent of women in that state. In Rhode Island and New Mexico, 48 percent of men are married. Among women in Rhode Island and New York, 43 percent are.

Looking at divorced adults, 13 percent of Nevada's men and 16 percent of its women fit in that category, as do 12 percent of Maine's men and 15 percent of its women. They are among the states with the largest shares of currently divorced residents, a distinction they share with Oklahoma.

The number of divorces within the previous 12 months per 1,000 women tends to be high in states where women marry young, such as Oklahoma and Idaho. But, the same link is not as strong for men: Alaska and Wyoming, for example, are among the top states for recently divorced men, but they are not states where men marry especially young. Click here for the full report. [PewResearch.org]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Supreme Court Keeps Names on Ref. 71 Petitions Private


The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the names and addresses of Ref. 71 petition signers in Washington State to be kept private. Ref. 71 will allow voters to decide if the state should expand domestic partnerships to be marriage in all but name. Personal attacks were seen in California last year after voters approved Prop. 8 — the constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Names of petition-signers there were released to the public. Lawyers for Washington have argued that the state's Public Records Act demands names be released. Homosexual-activist groups were also pushing for the names. "The Supreme Court took a large step forward in protecting the rights of citizens who support a traditional definition of marriage to speak freely," said James Bopp, lead counsel for Protect Marriage Washington. "No citizen should ever have their personal property destroyed or receive death threats for exercising their right to engage in the political process." [CitizenLink.com]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reggie Dabbs tonight at Waseca Junior High!

Today, October 21st, the Waseca and Janesville Ministerial Associations are providing a day of assemblies in Waseca and Janesville, bringing in youth specialist, Reggie Dabbs to speak to our students.

Reggie has an incredible personal testimony. His school assemblies focus on choices—those we make and some that seem to be made for us, and how our response to them will shape our lives. In the evening rally, Reggie will build on that theme, presenting students with the greatest choice they will ever make: to choose to follow Jesus.

- We need people who are willing to pray with students who respond, choosing to commit their lives to Christ, or to reaffirm their commitment to Him. (A 15-minute training session for these volunteers will be held at 6:30 p.m., just before the Rally.)
If you want to be part of the prayer team or are willing to pray with students, contact Pastor Howard Lundeen (507.835.2235; pastorhoward@cccefca.com).

We need adults who are willing to serve - Setting up/serving pizza and pop from 6:00 to 6:45 p.m. that evening, and helping with clean up. If you can help in this area, contact Pastor Zach Marino (507.835.2235; pastorzach@cccefca.com).

If you have questions, or would like more information, please contact Pastor Brad Wickersheim (507.833.1082; pastorbrad@wcamn.org).

__________________________________

Schedule:
8:00 a.m. Assembly at Waseca Junior High
10:00 a.m. Assembly at Waseca Senior High
1:00 p.m. at JWP
Pizza & Pop
6:15 - 6:45 p.m.
Waseca Junior High Commons
Evening Rally
(everyone is welcome to attend)
with Reggie and the Band
7:00 p.m. in the Waseca Junior High Gym

That's My King by Dr. S.M. Lockridge



S. M. Lockridge video clip:
The Bible says my King is the King of the Jews. He is a King of Israel. He's the King of righteousness. He's the King of the ages. He's the King of heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. That’s my King! I wonder… do you know Him?

My King is a sovereign King; no means of measure can define His limitless love. He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. Do you know Him?

He's the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world. He's God's Son. He's a sinner's Savior. He's the centerpiece of civilization. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He is the loftiest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the fundamental doctrine of true theology! He's the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient Savior! I wonder if you know Him today.

He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He strengthens and sustains. He guards and guides. He heals the sick. He cleansed the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and beautifies the meek. I wonder if you know Him.

He is the key to knowledge. He is the wellspring of wisdom. He's the way of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. Do you know Him?

Well, His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous, and His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

I wish I could describe Him to you. Yes! He's indescribable. He's incomprehensible. He's invincible. He's irresistible. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get him off your hand. You can't outlive Him, and you can't live without Him.

Well, the Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him, and the grave couldn't hold Him!

Yes! That's my King! That's my King!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Atheists Suck at Being Atheists - Washington Post

Originally found HERE.

Atheists Suck at Being Atheists
by Pastor Douglas Wilson

From the perspective of a Christian, the refusal of an atheist to be a Christian is dismaying, but it is at least intelligible. But what is really disconcerting is the failure of atheists to be atheists. That is the thing that cries out for further exploration.

We can understand a cook who sets out to prepare a reduction sauce, having it simmer on the stove for three days. But what we shouldn't get is the announcement afterwards that he has prepared us a soufflé. The atheistic worldview is nothing if not inherently reductionistic, whether this is admitted or not. Everything that happens is a chance-driven rattle-jattle jumble in the great concourse of atoms that we call time. Time and chance acting on matter have brought about, in equally aimless fashion, the 1927 New York Yankees, yesterday's foam on a New Jersey beach, Princess Di, the arrangement of pebbles on the back side of the moon, the music of John Cage, the Fourth Crusade, and the current gaggle representing us all in Congress.

If the universe actually is what the materialistic atheist claims it is, then certain things follow from that presupposition. The argument is simple to follow, and is frequently accepted by the sophomore presidents of atheist/agnostic clubs at a university near you, but it is rare for a well-published atheistic leader to acknowledge the force of the argument. To acknowledge openly the corrosive relativism that atheism necessarily entails would do nothing but get the chimps jumping in the red states. To swallow the reduction would present serious public relations problems, and drive Fox News ratings up even further. Who needs that?

So if the universe is what the atheist maintains it is, then this determines what sort of account we must give for the nature of everything -- and this includes the atheist's thought processes, ethical convictions, and aesthetic appreciations. If you were to shake up two bottles of pop and place them on a table to fizz over, you could not fill up an auditorium with people who came to watch them debate. This is because they are not debating; they are just fizzing. If you were to shake up one bottle of pop, and show it film footage of some genocidal atrocity, the reaction you would get is not moral outrage, but rather more fizzing. And if you were to shake it really hard by means of art school, and place it in front of Michelangelo's David, or the Rose Window of Chartres Cathedral, the results would not really be aesthetic appreciation, but more fizzing still.

If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature. The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist's case for atheism. The atheist gives us an account of all things which makes it impossible for us to believe that any account of all things could possibly be true. But no account of things can be tenable unless it provides us with the preconditions that make it possible for our "accounting" to represent genuine insight. Atheism fails to do this, and the failure is a spectacular one. Nor does atheism allow us to have any fixed ethical standard, or the possibility of beauty.

It does no good to appeal to the discoveries made by science and reason, for one of the things that reason has apparently brought us is atheism. Right? And not content to let sleeping dogs lie, reason also brings us the inexorable consequences of atheism, which includes the unpalatable but necessary conclusion that random neuron firings do not amount to any "truth" that corresponds to anything outside our heads. This, ironically enough, includes atheism, and so we find ourselves falling out of the tree, saw in one hand and branch in the other.

Contrast this with the Christian gospel -- God the Father is the Maker of heaven and earth. He sent His Son to be born one of us; this Son died on gibbet for our sins, as the ultimate and final human sacrifice, and He rose from the dead on the third day following. Having ascended into Heaven and taken His place at the right hand of His Father, He sent His Holy Spirit into the world in order to transform it, a process that is still ongoing. Now obviously, this is a message that can be believed or disbelieved. But the reason for mentioning it here includes the important point that such a set of convictions makes it possible for us to believe that reason can be trusted, that goodness does not change with the evolutionary times, and that beauty is grounded in the very heart of God. Someone who believes these things doesn't believe that we are just fizzing.

You can deny that this God exists, of course, and you can throw the whole cosmos into that pan of reduction sauce. And you can keep the heat on by publishing one atheist missive after another. But what you should not be allowed to do is cook the whole thing bone dry and call the crust on the bottom an example of the numinous or transcendent. Calling it that provides us with no reason to believe it -- and numerous reasons not to.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Might be looking for a new laptop

My laptop is on its last legs. I bought it a long time ago while in Seminary in 2oo5! So it comes as no surprise that it does things like take 15 minutes to boot up, runs poorly when it is working, and is temperamental besides. The screen blinks off and on randomly, and it is noisy. But I can't complain, as I've used this computer an incredible number of hours. It has flown to Cancun Mexico, Florida, Denver a half dozen times, Philadelphia, Boston twice, plus Seattle. The list of miles it has traveled in a car are nearly countless. And I carried it to class every day for a handful of years. I did upgrade the RAM about 2 years ago, and I regularly try to create room on the hard drive by moving stuff to external storage, but one of these days, it isn't going to turn on. I get occasional and random disk problems too. So my church is looking at getting me a new laptop so I can continue to work :-) Below I have put together my current thoughts on what I am looking for, and am open to suggestions.

Operating System - Microsoft Windows 7. Just say "no" to Vista.

CPU - an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.0-2.4GHz. No to all AMD processors, they are HORRIBLE for video editing/processing

RAM - 4GB+ of RAM. RAM isn't that expensive, but trying to be cheap here is like cutting out part of your lungs - you can still breath, but just not as well as possible. Windows 7 will be able to utilize more than 4GB of RAM, so anything over 4 is a bonus.

Screen - minimum of 15.4 inch screen, bigger is a real bonus, but not over 17 inches. My wife's 17 inch screen is beautiful, but my current 15.4 screen is livable. No 14.1 inch screen please.

Hard Drive - 320GB is probably the minimum with 7200RPM, and 500GB is preferred. Hard drives are very cheap, so you don't save much by getting a smaller one. It seems the stuff we store grows at the same rate that hard drives do, so you can never have too much hard drive it seems. A reasonable (and possibly good) option is to have an second external hard drive. I don't think I need a solid state drive. I'd suggest avoiding the 5400RPM hard drives as they are 25% slower, which is like trying to think after a night out drinking, your brain doesn't operate at full speed.

Optical Drive - DVD RW of some sort. I don't need Blu-ray or anything like that, just something that will burn DVD's.

Wi-Fi - 802.11n Wireless as well as Bluetooth. I use Bluetooth regularly to connect my cell phone to the computer to synchronize calendars and contacts.

Keyboard - I prefer keyboards without the number pad, but unfortunately many laptops are now adding that in. I can live with it, but given 2 identical computers I'd choose the one without the number pad. This is because A) I like having my hands centered on the computer screen when I type and B) I never use number pads, not even on desk tops. I don't do much data entry where I need to do 10-key. I don't need an external keyboard, or a docking system.

USB - at least two USB2.0, and 3 or 4 is even better.

Battery - more cells is better, but I wouldn't spend a bunch extra for an extra 40 minutes of battery life. The reality is that laptop batteries don't last that long, and it's not that often I am very far from electricity.

Mouse Pad - I prefer ones with the side scroll bar, and I don't need/want the little button on the keyboard that looks like an eraser (I think Lenovo is the only one this is an option on still).

Computer Bag - my current computer bag is 6 years old and falling apart. If we invest in a new computer, we should get something that will safely carry it. I prefer the backpack style as they are more comfortable and utilitarian than the case style. The messenger bag style is acceptable too.

I don't care a whole lot about specific brands as long as they are a name brand so there is someone standing behind the product if it should fail. I've had HP, Compaq, and Dell and all served me well. Lenovo is the old IBM and is good, and Sony is fine as well. Acer is supposedly making some good computers too, and I'm sure there are others out there.

At this point I have no preference on sound cards and video cards, nor special speaker options. I don't think I need HDMI output. I'm indifferent to having a card reader. A remote control is a nice feature, but not a necessity. I don't need a fancy computer like the Alienware ones, or Apple's Macs for that matter. I am not a huge fan of the super smooth/shiny laptop screens that show every finger print and dust particle. I can live with one but prefer the more matte looking screens.

Software

Microsoft Office 2007 - I regularly use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook. I also use Publisher from time to time (our membership certificates are Publisher files for instance). I don't use Access, OneNote, Groove, FrontPage, or InfoPath.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate & VideoStudio Pro X2 Bundle - This is what I have been using to edit videos for church, as well as photos for things like the church directory and the web site. I'd LOVE to have an Adobe Suite, but it is RIDICULOUSLY expensive and I could never justify that cost with how little I would use it. The Corel software is the "good enough" solution. I'd be open to other software if someone has suggestions. We did purchase this bundle for our own computer, and thus far, it has worked flawlessly. The tradeoff is that you don't get lots of powerful options to do higher end editing. Again, not a big concern on my part at this point in our church's life/needs. Right now this bundle is on sale at Amazon.com for $69.99, but I'd want to find out if it is compatable with Windows 7 before purchasing it. And honestly, I don't need the Paint Shop Pro component of this bundle, it is just a nice add-on when looking at how little more the bundle costs than just the VideoStudio by itself. I can use GIMP to edit photos if needed, and that is free.

Something to convert files to Adobe's .pdf format would be nice. I don't even know what is out there, Shawn P probably knows better than I do.

Many of the other programs that I use are free downloads, like the audio extractor I use to rip audio from our video to post sermons on the church website and Podcast feed for iTunes. I use Audacity to edit my sound files, and that is free as well.

That is everything I can think of at this point, but if you see something I overlooked let me know.

Update on Black & Decker Firestorm 18V Batter/Charger issues

A while back I wrote that I suspect that my charger for my Black & Decker Firestorm 18V cordless drill had died. In searching the web, I found a couple of interesting things related to this. First, the original Black & Decker chargers are junk. If you let a battery get too low, it will fry the charger when you try to recharge. It burns out the circuitry. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but that's what happens. The very thing it is supposed to do actually kills it. So I killed my charger, thereby creating a large black and orange paperweight if I didn't find a work around solution. I have the old "post" style batteries, and those chargers aren't made any longer, or so I was told.

The solution was simple, elegant, and incredibly effective. Upon searching the web, I found that the Dewalt Charging system for their 18V cordless drills are the same as the Black & Decker - meaning their batteries are the exact same dimensions. Meaning one battery can fit and charge in the other's chargers. But it gets better.

The DEWALT DW9116 7.2-Volt to 18-Volt Pod Style 1 Hour Battery Charger is amazing in how it works! It fits my batteries perfectly, and within an hour my batteries were fully charge and ready to turn screws, saving me about $100 on a new drill set. But not only does it charge my batteries, but it is a smart charger. It can detect when a cell is not working properly and can then condition it. It also senses when the battery is full, and it stops charging it, or keeps it on a trickle charge so it doesn't burn the battery out. The only, and I do mean ONLY drawback to this new charger is that it doesn't fit into my drill case. But that is a small price to pay for a functioning tool! Consider me very happy with DeWalt, and less than impressed with Black & Decker.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Barefoot Contessa – Outrageous Brownies



Note: I added 8 extra ounces of Ghiradelli Double Chocolate dipping chocolate to the melting mix for a smoother mouth feel. I milk chocolate over dark chocolate, and to lighten this brownie you can also leave out the instant coffee to reduce the intense dark flavor. I also don't use nuts in my brownies, I really don't like walnuts, and prefer my brownies nut-free. While these are good brownies, my favorite all time brownie ironically comes from a box - Ghirardelli Chocolate Brownie Mix, Double Chocolate, 20-Ounce Boxes.

Outrageous Brownies by Barefoot Contessa:

Ingredients
1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Outrageous Brownies Copyright 1999, The Barefoot Contessa CookbookThis was adapted from a recipe for chocolate globs in the Soho Charcuterie Cookbook.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Childhood Trauma May Shorten Lifespan


A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that children who experience six or more traumatic events in their childhood have an average lifespan 19 years shorter than their counterparts who do not suffer that degree of childhood trauma. Among the events considered to be traumatic are emotional, physical or sexual abuse or household dysfunction. "The stressors tend to accumulate in people's lives, and it appears that affects the way they develop and can affect the way they think and their emotional control," said Dr. Robert Anda from CDC's Adverse Childhood Experiences study. Click here for the full article. [ABCNews.go.com]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Volunteering in America Research Highlights






The Corporation for National and Community Service hosts the most comprehensive collection of information on volunteering in the U.S. at its Web site: www.VolunteeringInAmerica.gov. The site allows civic leaders, nonprofit organizations, and interested individuals to retrieve a wide range of information regarding trends and demographics in volunteering in their regions, states, and almost 200 cities. This document highlights some of the key findings from the data. For the purposes of this report, volunteers are persons age 16 and older who serve through or with an organization without pay at any point during a 12 month-period between September of one year and September of the following year.

Key Findings

• In 2008, 61.8 million Americans or 26.4 percent of the adult population contributed 8 billion hours of volunteer service worth $162 billion, using Independent Sector’s 2008 estimate of the dollar value of a volunteer hour ($20.25).

• Despite the challenges of a tough economic situation, the volunteering rate held steady between 2007 and 2008, while the number of volunteers slightly increased by about one million.

• Over 441,000 more young adults (age 16-24) volunteered in 2008 than 2007, representing an increase from about 7.8 million to more than 8.2 million.

• Neighborhood engagement levels have risen sharply since 2007, with a 31 percent increase in the number of people who worked with their neighbors to fix a community problem and a 17 percent increase in the number of people who attended community
meetings.

• As the economy slows and nonprofit organizations struggle to provide services on smaller budgets, volunteers become even more vital to the health of our nation’s communities. Between September 2008 and March 2009, more than a third (37%) of nonprofit organizations report increasing the number of volunteers they use, and almost half (48%) foresee increasing their usage of volunteers in the coming year.1 Almost no nonprofit organizations are showing a decrease in their volunteer usage.

• Volunteers were much more likely than non-volunteers to donate to a charitable cause in 2008, with 78.2 percent contributing $25 or more compared to 38.5 percent of non-volunteers.

• Highest volunteer rate: Since 1989, the Midwest region of the United States has had the highest volunteer rate among U.S. regions for all adults, with a rate of 23.9 percent in 1989, and 30.2 in 2008. This is a shift from 1974 when the West had the highest volunteer rate.

Top Ten States for Volunteer Rate:
1 Utah 43.5%
2 Nebraska 38.9%
3 Minnesota 38.4%
4 Alaska 38.0%
5 Iowa 37.1%
6 Montana 36.6%
7 South Dakota 36.4%
8 Kansas 36.2%
9 Vermont 35.6%
10 North Dakota 35.0%

1 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN 38.4%
2 Portland, OR 36.7%
3 Salt Lake City, UT 36.5%
4 Seattle, WA 34.3%
5 Kansas City, MO 33.4%
6 Columbus, OH 32.8%
7 Oklahoma City, OK 32.5%
8 Hartford, CT 32.0%
9 Washington, DC 30.9%
9 Denver, CO 30.9%

Highest volunteer rate: Minneapolis-St. Paul had the highest overall volunteer rate of the 51 largest metropolitan areas in the country between 2006 and 2008 at 38.4 percent. Minneapolis-St. Paul was also ranked 1st for their volunteer rate between 2005 and 2007. The median volunteer rate for large cities during 2006 to 2008 was 27.3 percent.

Full document HERE.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Reggie Dabbs to speak to Waseca Students Oct. 21st


On Wednesday, October 21st, the Waseca and Janesville Ministerial Associations are providing a day of assemblies in Waseca and Janesville, bringing in youth specialist, Reggie Dabbs to speak to our students.

Reggie has an incredible personal testimony. His school assemblies focus on choices—those we make and some that seem to be made for us, and how our response to them will shape our lives. In the evening rally, Reggie will build on that theme, presenting students with the greatest choice they will ever make: to choose to follow Jesus.

Reggie and his team will bring the message, but we need your help.

We need people to give financially...
- Giving to help with the cost of the assemblies
- Giving to help pay for give-away prizes
- Giving to help purchase pizza and pop (or donate a case or two of pop)
You can give to this event in your weekly offering at church - memo your check/envelope with “Reggie Event” or “School Assemblies”

We need people to pray…
- Begin to pray now for the students who will hear the message, and for the events and speakers
- We need people who will commit to being part of a prayer team at the Junior High during the rally.
- We need people who are willing to pray with students who respond, choosing to commit their lives to Christ, or to reaffirm their commitment to Him. (A 15-minute training session for these volunteers will be held at 6:30 p.m., just before the Rally.)
If you want to be part of the prayer team or are willing to pray with students, contact Pastor Howard Lundeen (507.835.2235; pastorhoward@cccefca.com).

We need adults who are willing to serve - Setting up/serving pizza and pop from 6:00 to 6:45 p.m. that evening, and helping with clean up. If you can help in this area, contact Pastor Zach Marino (507.835.2235; pastorzach@cccefca.com).

If you have questions, or would like more information, please contact Pastor Brad Wickersheim (507.833.1082; pastorbrad@wcamn.org).

__________________________________

Wednesday, October 21st
8:00 a.m. Assembly at Waseca Junior High
10:00 a.m. Assembly at Waseca Senior High
1:00 p.m. at JWP
Pizza & Pop
6:15 - 6:45 p.m.
Waseca Junior High Commons
Evening Rally
(everyone is welcome to attend)
with Reggie and the Band
7:00 p.m. in the Waseca Junior High Gym


__________________________

Who is Reggie Dabbs?

Born to an unwed teenager who at one time considered abortion as a viable option for solving her "problem," Reggie Dabbs considers himself fortunate to be alive. With no place to go, the pregnant teenager ended up living in a chicken coop in Louisiana. It was there she remembered a former school teacher, Mrs. Dabbs, who had said to her students, "If you ever need anything, call me," and gave the students her home phone number. The girl called.

Mrs. Dabbs went to Louisiana, picked up the girl, and took her back to Tennessee where she and her husband, whose six children were adults by this time, took the girl into their home and cared for her until after the baby was born. They continued to care for little Reggie as foster parents until he was in the fourth grade, and then they officially adopted him and gave him the Dabbs name.

As the Dabbs' reared Reggie, they instilled in him strong moral values, for which he is genuinely grateful. They also ingrained in him the fact that in every situation he faced, he had a choice. What he did with those choices was entirely up to him.

In the sixth, Reggie began playing the saxophone and hated it. At the insistence of his parents he continued to practice and to play. Not until his freshman year in college did he actually enjoy the instrument, and today, he plays with fervor and expertise.

After graduating from college, Reggie began his public speaking. During one speaking engagement, his host asked if he would be interested in addressing a high school assembly. From that small beginning in 1987, Reggie has become a popular public school speaker.

When addressing a school assembly, Reggie talks to the kids in a humorous style about choices each of them has when faced with drugs, alcohol, suicide, etc. Reggie gets in kids faces and tells them that he never smoked a cigarette, never did drugs, never drank alcohol, because he chose not to. He assures them that they can make the same kinds of choices.

Reggie talks to kids about family and how thankful they should be that they have families. He talks to them about dating relationships and emphasizes that virginity is the most honorable choice. Most of all, Reggie drives home the fact that "You can never change your past, but you can change your future!"

From being a "Problem" to an unwed teenager, Reggie is fast becoming one of the most in-demand speakers who helps teenagers meet their problems head-on and overcome them.

Reggie makes his home in Ft. Myers, Florida with his wife Michele and their son Dominic.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Honoring your Pastor during Clergy Appreciation Month

I post this not as a pandering to my congregation (seriously!). I have some wonderful people who take great care of me! My church has been especially generous to us in light of our having recently had a child. (THANKS again everyone!) But this is a reminder to others outside my church to take great care of your pastor!

This comes from Focus on the Family BTW.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month

Why Honor Pastors?

Why is it appropriate to set aside a special time each year to give recognition and affirmation to our clergy and their families? How are their needs and circumstances different from those of carpenters, grocers or dentists?

One distinction lies in the nature of the service these leaders provide. God has entrusted to them one of the most precious of assignments—the spiritual well-being of His flock. When a pastor becomes ineffective, the very souls of his or her parishioners are endangered. When eternity is in the balance, we should all be concerned.

Another problem lies in the expectations placed on pastors. Numerous surveys have found that a very high percentage of pastors feel pressure to be the ideal role model of a Christian family—which is impossible, of course. As a result, four out of five pastors feel their families are negatively impacted by unrealistic expectations—whether self-imposed or congregation-imposed—and that ministry is an outright hazard to the health of their families. Indeed, the “pedestal” is not all it’s cracked up to be.

As pastors and their families try to please the God who called them to ministry while also trying to meet the expectations of their congregations, one result is dangerous stress. In fact, 75 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

Then, of course, there is the “fishbowl” aspect of ministry, whereby the entire lives of pastoral families seem to be on public display. Every private family situation quickly seems to become a congregational or community issue. This anxiety can only be heightened when financial pressures also come to bear, which is common since pastors typically make substantially less each year than their own board members and deacons. Nearly 70 percent of pastoral spouses work outside the home, most often due to financial need.

No one would choose to live life under these conditions unless they felt obliged to a higher, divine directive. Unfortunately, all too often, these are exactly the conditions under which pastoral families serve.

The good news is that we can make a difference! Clergy Appreciation Month is an attempt to counter the negative erosion in the lives of our spiritual leaders with positive affirmation.

As your congregation prepares for Clergy Appreciation Month (CAM), the following guidelines will help you in planning a creative, memorable celebration.

1. Select a CAM planning committee to oversee preparations for this event.
Ideally, the committee should be representative of all members of the congregation
(i.e., age, race, gender, church activity), but should remain small enough to be effective and efficient.

2. Plan the details. Your goal is to express appreciation to your entire pastoral staff and their families. List the specific activities you want to undertake to achieve this goal.

3. Delegate the responsibilities. Assign the responsibility for each activity on your list to one person. This person may need to enlist the assistance of others in the congregation, but making one person accountable will improve your results. Also, be sure to involve those under the direct ministry of staff pastors, such as calling on youth group members to help honor a youth pastor.

4. Communicate your plans to those in your congregation and community.
Carefully determine the best means to promote your activities and encourage participation.

5. Monitor your progress. Be sure that each responsible person on your planning
team reports his or her progress at regular intervals. Avoid a surprise resulting from a
last-minute crisis.

6. Thank the participants. Make sure that each person who helped plan, prepare,
decorate, serve, lead, entertain, speak, clean up, etc., knows how significant his or her
contribution was to the success of your celebration activities.

In all of your activities, remember that Clergy Appreciation Month is not about glorifying a man or a woman. It is a biblically consistent opportunity to recognize and encourage those whom God has called to proclaim His message and lead His people (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

It is a time when the entire congregation can become unified in celebration of what God is doing in its midst. Perhaps some of the following ideas may work for your congregation or may inspire you to create your own.

Some ideas listed - and you need to know your pastor if these would be a blessing or not, some I would certainly not be comfortable with.

• Determine an appropriate level of involvement for your church.
For example, a full-scale plan of recognition might include a banquet, a special
ceremony during a worship service, special guests or speakers, a church family reunion of present and former members, gifts, plaques, flowers or an open letter of appreciation in the local newspaper. A more casual approach might simply involve a moment of recognition during a morning service.
• Team with your local Christian bookstore(s) or radio station(s) to recognize
and honor your pastoral families through activities appropriate to your community.
• Host a card shower at which members and friends present either purchased or
homemade greeting cards to each pastor’s family. Or, distribute blank thank-you notes among the congregation to be used for expressing appreciation. Encourage those participating in these types of events to be as specific as possible in their praise,
revisiting favorite sermons or moments when the pastor’s ministry made a difference.
• Hold a people-pleasin’ pizza party. Plan an informal time of sharing and caring
around lots and lots of pizza and pop. If your pastoral families love pizza, give them
certificates to a local pizza parlor to last throughout the year.
• Plan a special appreciation service during your normal worship time(s) on the second weekend of the month. During this service, use a variety of means to honor your pastor(s). Work closely with your worship leader to make the celebration a very special one. Sing songs of commitment, read Scriptures of dedication and exhortation and include a time of tribute for your pastor(s) that includes representatives of your denomination, your community, your church leadership and others in the congregation. (See the sample order of worship that follows.) This would also be a wonderful opportunity to call those in attendance to a renewed commitment to the church mission and vision. Then ask the pastor(s) to share their dreams and vision for the future of the church, concluding with a laying-on-of-hands ceremony or other time of personal dedication.
• Plan an evening bonfire celebration with the theme of church unity. Share the
joys and sorrows you have experienced together, especially identifying the role your
pastor and his family have played. Make it a time of recommitment and bonding for
your entire church family.
• Provide a testimony time during a worship service for those involved in the church’s various ministries to share the joy they experience in serving the church. Have them emphasize the satisfaction one receives in using God-given gifts for the benefit of the body. Subsequently, offer training courses on identifying and using spiritual gifts, then encourage members to sign up for the various ministries and service needs that currently exist and that match their gifts, abilities and interests.
• Submit an open letter to your local newspaper to announce to the community your genuine appreciation for your pastoral staff and their families.
• Plan a special banquet in honor of your pastor(s). Have guest speakers and an entertaining program that highlight the accomplishments of the church under the pastor(s)’ leadership. Prepare a “This Is Your Life” show or celebrity roast. If such an event is not possible, arrange for several members of the congregation to take the
pastoral staff and their families to lunch or dinner.
• Invite local dignitaries to participate in the various appreciation events. Ask them to say a word of gratitude for your pastor and the influence of your church in the community. Invite denominational leaders who oversee your area or district to attend and participate. (You may impress them with the high regard in which you hold your pastor(s).)
• Present your pastoral family with a significant gift, including a card signed by as many people as possible. The cost of such a gift may be covered through your
church budget or by asking for special donations. Consider simple gifts (a gift certificate to a local bookstore, restaurant or car wash; a magazine subscription), personal gifts (a new pair of shoes, a new suit or dress, a new set of tires), generous gifts (an all-expense-paid trip to a resort, bed and breakfast or overnight railway trip) or even practical gifts (a personal digital assistant (PDA), a conference or seminar for pastors).
• Urge the Sunday school and other children’s groups to make creative appreciation messages for the staff using construction paper and bright colors. Have the pastor(s) visit them for their own ceremonies of gratitude. Then decorate staff offices with the children’s artwork.
• Plant a tree or some shrubs in honor of your pastoral staff. These can make long-lasting tributes to your clergy, past and present, and can form the basis for
future conversations as you talk to your children and grandchildren about the value of their spiritual leaders.
• Send a letter to members of the congregation explaining Clergy Appreciation Month and include offering envelopes for a special love offering.
• Plan a church picnic, circus or other festive event to celebrate the day.
• Invite the extended family of your pastor to visit and assist them by underwriting the cost. Schedule a family portrait sitting or other similar activities.
• Play taped audio or video greetings from special friends, children, fellow ministers and district officials of your pastoral staff at a special service.
• Invite a guest speaker to conduct worship and give your pastor(s) an extra paid day off.
• Schedule special prayer sessions to pray specifically for your pastors and their
families. Make this a yearlong commitment, and assign special categories to each
month, such as good health for the pastor’s family, financial stability, courage and
freedom to dream, and the pastor’s marriage.
• Present each of your pastors with a packet of personal service coupons. Have members of the congregation pledge to provide services for your pastoral families, such as lawn service, child care, car repairs or catered dinners. You might even pledge to assist with projects around the church campus, such as fixing a sign, repainting the parking lot stripes or teaching the pastor’s class one Sunday. And don’t forget spiritual tasks, such as a commitment to pray each day for every member of your pastoral families.
• Provide paid time off and travel funds for your pastoral families to visit their relatives. Getting away for special holidays or family events can be a memorable time of respite and relaxation.
• Give your pastor(s) a cell phone (for personal use only) and pay for the first year of charges. Or give your pastor a phone card for prepaid long-distance calling.
• Provide your pastor’s family with upgraded hardware equipment or a software package for their home computer.
• Name something after your pastor(s), such as a room or banquet hall in the church, a scholarship fund or an annual church picnic.
• Improve your pastor’s working environment by upgrading or expanding his office or study, adding bookcases and file cabinets, or replacing out-of-date office equipment and furniture.
• Create a pastors’ hall of fame in your church with photos and memorabilia of your present and past ministers.
• Plan theme dinners throughout the month at individual homes, assigning all participating non-host adult members of the congregation to the host homes (along with pastoral staff and their spouses). Each adult couple/individual should bring part of the meal. Plan an intimate time of sharing with the pastoral staff couple, including how each member has been blessed by their ministries.
• Give tickets to activities especially enjoyed by your pastoral staff, such as sporting events, the symphony, a play or dinner theater, a rodeo, a home show or gardening show, an antique auction or antique car show, etc.

Long-Term Care of your Pastor
It is virtuous, invigorating and biblical to set aside time each year to honor your pastoral staff and their families. It can be one of the most enjoyable and unifying times your congregation will experience. But it is also imperative that your appreciation of your pastor(s) not be confined to just one weekend or one month. It needs to occur throughout the entire year. In fact, it needs to be present throughout their entire ministry with your church.

There are a number of long-term ways your congregation can show its love and appreciation for your pastor(s) and demonstrate its respect for their divine calling among you. Here are a few very important things your church can do to provide the ongoing care God expects from you:

1. Establish a pastoral care team. Select a handful of people from your congregation who will be charged with overseeing the welfare of your pastor and family. They will be their advocates. As such, they will regularly monitor their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being; offer suggestions to congregational leaders that would improve their living conditions; represent the pastor’s interests in any discussions on such matters; and ensure that the following entitlements are properly available.

2. Provide fair and adequate salary, compensation and retirement benefits. The Bible says, “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7, NIV). A pastor should be compensated on a par with the people being served and other ministers in the same community. Leadership in every church should be more concerned about the physical and fiscal well-being of the pastor than nearly any other area. The quality of such care is a reflection upon you as a congregation and a witness to your community of Christ’s love in action. Recognize your pastor as a uniquely trained professional with related education loans to repay, family-raising needs and expenses similar to your own, and a right to a comfortable retirement. Make this support a priority. Review it and adjust it regularly. Give your pastor the freedom to minister instead of worry.

3. Allow time off for professional development. Encourage your pastor to continually challenge and improve himself/herself by underwriting his/her participation in spiritual retreats, conferences, denominational functions and continuing education each year. Every church will be better served if its leader is filled with new insights and motivation.

4. Allow time off for relaxation and restoration. All pastors need time away with their families, as well as time alone with God. Give your pastor at least one or two days off each week, and respect his or her privacy during those days. Set boundaries and make sure the members of the congregation respect them. Grant your pastor adequate vacation days, based on the total number of years in full-time ministry, not tenure at your church. Also, give time off (replacement days) for holidays worked, and allow guilt-free time away for personal matters or bereavement.

5. Give freedom to dream and permission to lead. Be open to new ideas.
Your pastor has access to resources and new concepts from the world’s greatest
religious leaders. That means he/she will probably come to you with ideas and
dreams for your congregation that may at first seem a bit grandiose or unrealistic.
But stay open. Dreams are fragile. Work to keep your pastor dreaming and alive.
Don’t be afraid to let him/her fail occasionally. Follow his/her leadership rather than
presenting constant opposition. Allow and expect him/her to speak out honestly
against sin and injustice. Let the Holy Spirit work.

6. Be willing to participate enthusiastically in shared ministry. The most
exhilarating moment a pastor can experience is to have a layperson say, “Pastor, I
really want to make a difference in my world for Christ. I want to put on the whole
armor of God and enter the fray. Will you help me? Will you train me? Will you pray
for me?” Join your pastor in God’s ministry.

7. Support your pastor with regular prayer, love and encouragement.
These are the most important things a church member can provide for a pastor. Prayer empowers pastors to be the people God called them to be. It is difficult to pray for someone and be critical at the same time. Love your pastor(s) as Jesus loves them,
and show it through regular, tangible acts of encouragement (such as simple cards or
notes) all year long.

8. Create an atmosphere that minimizes ministry stress and unrealistic
expectations. Cherish your minister’s Christlike character as a priceless asset for your church. Avoid grumbling, poisonous humor or a negative spirit. Be loyal. Come alongside him or her to facilitate personal renewal and restoration. Keep him/her accountable in avoiding an excessive schedule and maintaining healthy priorities.

9. Care for your pastor’s family. Don’t expect pastoral families to be any more
perfect than your own. Recognize that every family is unique and eliminate unrealistic expectations. Encourage your pastor to make family a priority (even above ministry to you) and to give it the time, energy and effort required to keep it healthy. Recognize the tremendous sacrifices he/she makes on your behalf and offer massive affection and affirmation. Provide for their comfort, needs and preferences. Don’t cut corners.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Churches Cutting Ties with ELCA

(HT Desiring God)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FIRST TWIN CITY CONGREGATION VOTES TO LEAVE ELCA

A 96 percent majority of the members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis voted on Sunday, September 27, to leave the ELCA. Due to the outcome of the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions regarding the role of Scripture and the ordination of practicing homosexual and lesbian persons, St. Paul's was forced to act.

Back in October of 1990, the congregation's Council set a policy that if the ELCA ever moved to allow such ordinations, the congregation would immediately begin the process to leave. "We feel quite affirmed by the hundreds of congregations who are contemplating the same move." said St. Paul's Senior Pastor, Rev. Roland J. Wells, Jr. "Since the ELCA vote, the reaction across the country has been swift and overwhelming. I have received phone calls from all over the country from pastors and members of congregations who are withholding funds from the national church, and are preparing to move to a newly forming Lutheran denomination, the LCMC. The phone at the LCMC office in Michigan has been ringing off the hook." In a separate action, over 1,200 ELCA leaders met last week in Indiana to begin work on another breakaway synod.

"When the ELCA took actions that even the liberal United Methodist and Presbyterian Church USA have repeatedly rejected, the sign was clear that the stranglehold of the activist fringe have taken control of the leadership of the church. Those of us in the center, representing over 80% of ELCA Lutherans in the pew, can see that it's time to form a new church body. It's time to build a positive, grace-filled, missional church- the ELCA that could have been." According to its process, St. Paul's congregation will now go through a process of consultation with the local ELCA bishop, and then hold a second vote at least 90 days after the first, which must pass by two-thirds.

St. Paul's is a legacy congregation in downtown Minneapolis. Founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1872, it was the fourth Lutheran congregation founded in the city. Today it draws members from a 60-mile circle across the Twin Cities. It is internationally recognized for its college-level programs of cross-cultural ministry education.

From the ELCA News Service:

Large ELCA Congregation Votes to Leave the Denomination
09-214-MRC

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Community Church of Joy, Glendale, Ariz., ended its affiliation Sept. 27 with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.
The congregation was the 10th largest in the ELCA with 6,800 baptized members. According to the 2009 ELCA Yearbook, Community Church of Joy's current operating expenses are more than $2.7 million. It gave more than $207,915 to the ELCA and other organizations in benevolence. By a unanimous vote of 129-0, Community Church of Joy terminated the relationship at a congregational meeting following worship.
"I was praying that (the vote) would be a clear direction from the congregation," said the Rev. Walter P. Kallestad, senior pastor of the congregation. Seeking to be consistent with the congregation's decision, Kallestad announced to the congregation his intention to resign from the ELCA's clergy roster.
Two votes were taken as part of a process to end the affiliation. An initial vote took place June 28, when 185 members voted 174-11 in favor of ending the relationship. Also in June, voting members chose to join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ -- an association of 197 congregations in the United States "rooted in the Lutheran Confessions."
Community Church of Joy's vision, values and mission are no longer aligned with the ELCA, according to Kallestad. "There is such a different direction that the ELCA has chosen, a path they're traveling on, and we really believe that it just was not consistent to where God has called us. And so we're parting," he told the ELCA News Service.

For the full Release visit the ELCA News Wire.

There is also a related article at The Christian Post.

From the Christian Post article:
On its website, Community Church of Joy cited three documents to help make clear the reasons for the congregation's actions. One document is on ELCA’s policy toward Israel, which the church says is not supportive of the nation.

Another is about Holy Scripture, which ELCA claims in its social statement on homosexuality “cannot be used in isolation as the norm for Christian life and the source of knowledge for the exercise of moral judgment.”

Community Church of Joy noted how ELCA’s website states that the writers of the Bible “sometimes provide differing and even contradictory views of God’s word, ways and will.”

They also pointed to a number of argumentative comments in the Lutheran Study Bible, including misleading translations and its silence on Apostle Paul’s comment on homosexuality as sin.

Lastly, the third document noted activities taken by ELCA promoting homosexual clergy.

Read the full article at the Christian Post.

Sermon – Matthew 5:3 – Life’s Healing Choices: The Beatitudes part 1

If you are new to my blog, you might be interested to know I post each week's sermon on our church's web site at http://WasecaChurch.org - This past week was Matthew 5:3.

We have just started a new sermon series that come from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where we are focusing on the Beatitudes. This is a series that a number of churches throughout the USA are doing in conjunction with Saddleback Church and pastor Rick Warren.

I am looking forward to preaching on the next 7 Beatitudes. I have already had great feedback from people in our church that it is challenging them and changing them.

We have begun to post audio of each week's sermon on the church web site, and hope to someday be able to do video. We are currently recording the video, but we don't have a host nor storage to make this happen yet. Baby steps! But we do also have a podcast, though I am working out some kinks on the setup of that podcast so please be patient with us!