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From the desk of Mr. Brian

December 2004November 2004   October 2004 
September 2004   August 2004   July 2004   June 2004

December 2004 As I was watching ESPN's Mike and Mike morning sports talk show they were discussing how the team concept was slowly going away.  They talked about several different examples of when players celebrated by themselves after making a big play.  There were no team high fives or slaps on the backs for the other players that helped them achieve their accomplishment.  It was just look at what I have done, without me this team would have no success.  Then as I started thinking about other parts of life, I considered the business world, and how we continually congratulate those who very meretriciously stepped on people, lied, and maybe even stretched the truth to gain prestige.  What a sad state we are in.

The really isn't a news flash it's the same old story.  It is what Reformation Sunday is all about.  Martin Luther was upset about the same thing in the church of his day.  The church was putting itself before all others.  As Martin was walking through the hood he saw poverty, hunger, and sadness everywhere.  Then he would go home and see the priest had enough to eat, they lived in very nice furnishings, and they were very happy with their lives.  The church continually wanted to serve itself.  Martin could see that the members weren't being filled because they were hungry, poor, and lost and the church was telling them that they needed to give more to give glory to God.  It wasn't Martin Luther's idea to start a new church he just wanted the church to serve the team and not the I/  When God graces us with His glory he doesn't say it's all about you and go ahead and leave me out of it.

There are very few things in life that I can guarantee, but here are just a few that I can.  I didn't and won't die on a cross to save anybody from sin.  I didn't and don't live a sin free life.  I am not the Son of God.  Because I didn't do any of these I can't in good faith say I am above anybody else.  When we start saying I then we leave out the most important part and that is HIM>  When we as a church, or even as individuals get caught up in celebrating what I did then we start to lose Jesus' message.  His message was very clear it's not about I, it's about Him.  Even God in the Trinity calls upon His son and the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Some of you might think I have a split personality because I almost always put we in my sentences.  That's because I don't do it myself.  It is the Grace of God that helps me do what I do.  It is His Grace that put me here, it is His Grace that give me the strength to do what I  do.  Without his grace and all the great people in this team we wouldn't accomplish anything.  I have heard it several times how can "I" do this or that.  It's a very easy answer, God fills me with the calling, HE fills me with the energy, HE supplies everything I need and then HE sends us those who have been chosen to receive HIS blessing.  I can do it because HE is there with me.  It's when I leave HIM out of the picture then it starts falling apart or doesn't go the way I wanted it to.

I hope the kids when they leave First have that same spirit.  I know they will because this congregation puts serving before themselves.  That is the spirit I hope continues on for ever and ever.  Once the spirit catches the "I" bug it is very hard to get over.

I am glad that HE has picked me to be an instrument of his ministry and that HE has Graced me to be here at First.  My family and I would like to wish you a spiritually filled holiday season.

Brian

We, through Christ, plant the seed one child at a time

November 2004 It is truly amazing that the year 2004 is now almost over.  What an exciting year it has been for the Youth and Family Ministry.  It has been a very full year and one that has been enjoyed by many.  It is always our focus to offer the youth and families of First Lutheran different opportunities to serve, to get to know each other, and to be filled with the Spirit.  In 2004 we offered many of those opportunities.  Here is just a few of them.

The Youth and Family Ministry Team has had several different ways to serve not just First Lutheran but the community.  We had the privilege of serving a Lenten meal.  We served at the Fall Festival by making brownies and rice crispy treats, helping serve lunch and face painting.  We held the second annual Back 2 School Carnival and we helped with the Lutheran Home Vacation Bible School.  We served in our church by being readers, greeters, Senior Acolytes, Junior Acolytes, and ushers.  We have served with our musical talents by singing in church or playing the bells.  We had a soup dinner for Supper Bowl Sunday with the proceeds going to Bread for the World.  We will once again be participating in Trunk or Treat.  On November 14th we will be serving our third annual intergenerational Thanksgiving Dinner.  Serving is a very important part of the church and we are proud that we are able to serve.

We have spent a lot of time filling the spirits of the youth and families of First Lutheran and the community.  We offered Bible Blast, which is a one day Vacation Bible School.  The theme was the Last Supper.  The older kids did a reenactment of our Lord's Last Supper.  There was Vacation Bible School where our theme was "GO."  We tried to inspire the kids to be a disciple for Christ.  We have added an afternoon boys and girls devotional time.  During this time we try to teach and show the kids the importance of spending a part of each day digging deeper into God's word.  Then we are going to teach the kids some life skills--how to cook, shop, sew, and several other items.  We offered Summer Sunday School which taught the kids about the Twelve Disciples, where they lived, served and for some how they died.  We have offered J.C. University and Wednesday Night Children's Church where we are teaching the basics of the Bible.  We have just completed First Communion with our 4th graders.  We start each Youth Group with a devotional.  As always we offered Sunday School and Confirmation.  We have also added a Couples Bible Study called Homebuilders.  This gives the couples of First Lutheran the opportunity to dig deeper into what God has planned for our marriages.  The Youth and Family Ministry Team has worked very hard to make sure the kids have opportunities to lean more and we are very proud of the kids and they way they have responded.

Lastly we have had FUN.  The kids have had plenty of opportunities to have fun by attending concerts, riding Pastor Judith's horse, and attending Youth Groups.  We have had Family Day a the Zoo and have several more activities planned for the rest of the school year.  The Confirmation kids attended Confirmation Camp.  We had our summer time program Project Embrace.  This program provided fun while we were serving and learning.

As you can see we stay very busy all year long and enjoy serving not only this church but the community God has blessed us by placing us here.  We look forward to the challenges that He has in store for us in the future.

In Christ,

Brian

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October 2004 My letter this month is to the confirmands but it applies to all of us.  What a wonderful time in your Christian lives.  You are now being given a whole new freedom that you haven't been able to experience before.  Sundays will no longer be filled with Sermon notes, confirmation class, or memorizing commandments, prayers, and creeds.  Many classes have been confirmed as you were on Sunday.  Just as we did on Sunday, they celebrated their victory of finishing the race of confirmation.  Unfortunately, they weren't aware that this was just the first leg of a relay race and not a sprint.  Some of those same confirmands that celebrated their victory that day then just stopped the race.  They stopped coming to church.  Friends and the weekend life became their way to renew their spirit.
Confirmation is not the end of the race.  It is just the completion of the first leg of your Christian lives.  There will be several more legs of this race.  There are different legs that you can now choose for yourself.  You can choose to be very active by being ushers, readers, teachers, choir members or volunteer for other opportunities.  You can still come to church and senior high Sunday School or just come to church and then head for home.  Once you graduate and go to college some of you might choose to become missionaries, pastors, or even a youth dude or dudette.  You now choose the remaining parts of your relay.
I want you to understand this.  Your church life is not completed.  As you contemplate your choices, the thought might hit you that you have learned all that you need to know and you can move on.  I was confirmed in 1980, (yes I know that I am old), I have learned 100 time more about the bible, Jesus, and what it is to be a Christian after confirmation than I did during it.  We just give you the foundation, God provides the opportunities and experiences and then it is up to you to build the rest.  Understand that regardless of your choices, you are not alone.  God is always with you and we are always here for you.
It has been an honor to be involved in the first part of your Christian journey.  I love each and every one of you and I truly hope that I will be included in the next part of your journey.

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September 2004 Wow, it's hard to believe that the summer is already over.  It seems just yesterday we were getting home from our family vacation and getting ready for Project Embrace and suddenly we are having the Back 2 School Carnival and wrapping our summer up with Vacation Bible School.  During VBS and Summer Sunday School we learned about the disciples of Jesus and that we are called to be disciples for Christ.

This summer proved to me again how First Lutheran understands that importance.  Because we understand that reaching our to the neighborhood kids is discipleship, we were able to serve just over 60 kids in our morning and afternoon Project Embrace program, 270 kids at our Back 2 School Carnival, and another 25 during our VBS program.  None of this happens without the donations of time, prayer, and resources that you give so generously.

I wish you could have seen all the kid's faces this entire summer as they heard about God's love, played games, created crafts, and interacted with each other in a Christian setting.  The best part might have been when the kids wanted just one more week of VBS.  I want to thank each and every one of you for passing on the blessings that you have received on to the children in our neighborhood.  What a blessing you continue to be to this church and our family.

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August 2004 Remember your first days at school.  A new shirt and pants, a new backpack and that box of new crayons.  I can still remember going to school on the first day and how great it was to have all this new stuff.  It was a privilege I always looked forward to.  Unfortunately, in our neighborhood many of these kids can't afford the basic necessities, much less school supplies.

Our 2nd annual Back to School carnival is just around the corner on Saturday, August 14th from 10a.m.-2p.m.  We will have the privilege of serving neighborhood children with the things they need to go back to school.  This might seem like a very small thing but after seeing their faces last year it is huge.

Yes, other organizations do this but not this way.  We have patterned the carnival after an idea started in Washington state.  The kids play free games and the prizes are their school supplies.  Each child receives his back pack and a card at registration.  The card has the number of each supply they are to receive.  As they play the games, we mark off the card and fill their backpacks.

More importantly, we are filling them with a touch of what First Lutheran is all about.  We have been so blessed and touched daily with God's grace.  We generously pass that grace on to the lives we serve.  We are not just living a handout and moving them one, we are playing with them, visiting with their families, and providing them opportunities to see Christ.  We advertise our bible school and youth programs that begin the next week.  We share our love for Christ and children.

God is calling, are we ready?  Please consider donating time and resources to make this year's event another great day.  Please pray for the volunteers, the children, and the day that God will be present in it and bless it abundantly

Brian

Through Christ, we plant the seed on child at a time

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July 2004

As my son Cameron and I walked to the grocery store this morning, I read a very interesting sign on the Greek Orthodox Church door.   The sign said, “Unequal Gifts but Equal Sacrifice.”  As we continued walking toward the store, I just couldn’t get the sign out of my mind.  I noticed all the different people out this morning doing their ordinary things;  I couldn’t get it out of my head how true the message was.

 We all have different talents and that is what makes us all so awesome.  I know that the world says that on the grand scale that the CEO at AOL is much more valuable than the Fry guy at McDonald’s.  Some in the church would even say the Bishop is more saved than us because he is the Bishop.

 I will be the first to say the Bishop DeFreese is an awesome man, but he is no more saved than any one of us who believes in Christ.  In God’s eyes we are the same; he gives us equal value.  When Christ died on that cross, he didn’t die for those called to work in the church.  He said those who believe in me will experience eternal life.  That includes the executives, the homeless, the big, the small, the pink, the purple, and everyone in between. 

The next time, and yes this includes me, we are feeling like we are more special than somebody else because we have a special gift, just remember unequal gifts but equal sacrifice.

 Christ made an equal sacrifice for everybody out of love.

Mr. Brian

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June 2004 Gone Fishing...
That is the sign that will be hanging on my door starting May 29th and until I return from my vacation June 5.  My Mom, Dad, and my entire family are heading to Minnesota to go fishing.  No, we aren't going to see the best baseball team in the whole wide world play even though that is hard for some people to believe.
I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to go fishing for an entire week.  I don't care what the weather conditions are; I will be out there fishing everyday.  The best part is that I don't even care if I catch a lot of fish.  I hope to catch some but if not, it's not a wasted trip.
That's the same enthusiasm Christ wants us to have when we are out fishing for Him.  He wants us to have that attitude that says, I don't care about the condition; I am going out to fish today.  When I first accepted Christ I shared him with everybody, but when they didn't accept him I thought I was a failure and the trip was wasted.  It's not a wasted trip!  Just like when you fish, sometimes the fish gets away with the bait, but the seed is planted that there was food right there and when they come back a little later you can catch them.
It's the same when we talk to somebody about Christ.  They might not accept him that day, but the seed is planted and they know where to go to help them find Christ.  Maybe my gone fishing sign needs to stay up as a constant reminder that I am always fishing, just not always with a pole.
I will miss all of you (yes John, Fred, and Bob, this includes you too) while we are on vacation and look forward to seeing you at service June 6th.
In his service,
Brian

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