Category Archives: Today!

Sarcoidosis on Facebook.

Mary Ann, let me introduce you to sarcoidosis on Facebook.

As you have already experienced, life is becoming a series of decisions about making choices. You will be crossing many bridges while choosing not to cross others.

My most recent  post on addictions will introduce you to how I started on Facebook. One of the first contacts for me on Facebook was a Sarcoidosis Group. http://www.facebook.com/groups/22602590155/  I met some really great people here and we had some very supportive conversations. Then as I read other people’s post I also learned more about myself.

Sarcoidosis Reach for a Cure was the second group I tied into. Again very supportive people. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarcoidosis-Reach-for-a-Cure/299962673213  These folks were on a strong membership drive. One of the key things I have learned from them is the necessity to tell the story over and over again.

Sarcoidosis Real has just been a fun place to drop in on and say hello. Again some very supportive people. What has been a consistent thread here is the – hi – how are you mindset. Good feelings!  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002590693485

The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research http://www.facebook.com/groups/36840373200/   is a good place to join as well. They are connected to researchers and people with support groups. Check things our before you get locked in. Here is a link to their web site. Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research.

As you begin to live with your sarcoidosis please remember you will not be alone. At times it will feel like that. Take the time to read other people’s stories then write your own. Share this with your family, they will not be able to read your mind, especially if you are trying to keep a “stiff upper lip”.

Take care and God Bless. Please take a hug and pass one on.

carl.

Just what is an addiction?

Discovering the freedom to be addicted to life!

In 2007 my lungs had taken a turn for the worse. I needed to take time to heal. At the same time a disc in my neck crumbled and life changed even more so. I was put on very strong medications. During that time it felt as if life was fading away. It was easy to close my eyes and believe that I would not wake up. Yet, each day I did wake up. It was important to make a decision about life itself. My memory had slipped away and there were times I looked in the mirror and did not know who I was. There were times when I stood in front of the mirror and asked where do I go from here. I would often turn on the computer and be confronted by Facebook. I knew nothing about this venue. I turned it on and began to see faces of people I did not know. Then I decided to look for people I did know. In the midst of my search I began to talk to people and recover my memory. This would be the second time in my life that my memory had been severely damaged by my sarcoidosis and the resulting medications. During this time while on Facebook I began to create discussions with old friends and new. I began to borrow thoughts, images and pictures.  I created files and saved what I could. The following story illustrates just how it worked for me. This story is dedicated to my staff, friends and participants at “the back door.” The back door was a project in Alberta Canada that started in the late 80’s. It was where I spent a lot of my life. This was a group of people who helped many young people to get off the street and to escape a life of addictions. At the same time these people created a way to allow an alternative addiction to live a life of it’s own.    I hope you enjoy the following.

Thank you Facebook friends for sharing these pictures and stories that helped to inspire so many thoughts.

Coffee, just how much does it affect our society and those around us? Staff never said much. They just carried their mugs with them.     They all knew there wasn’t a problem. One cup allowed them a moment of refreshment nurturing a clear mind and the power to face the day. 

Even many of the participants, those young people who came to get off the street grew to know they could easily police necessary life changes. 

Life could change! Indeed life would change! The staff had come to realize that the streets of Calgary would never be the same. This was not about individuals becoming super human. This was not about discovering the elixir of life. It was about developing networks for good and nurturing proper healthy life changing decisions. Indeed, it was about the willingness to give, the willingness to identify that life giving energy found in the heartbeat and blood line of those who choose to be a part of the difference.

Indeed the streets of Calgary would know that it was time to change. The staff and volunteers had committed themselves to a constant declaration that the purposes of life were very clear. It was time for the pain and violence of the streets to come to an end. These people were staunchly committed to the agenda, NO ONE NEEDS TO BE HURT!

It was time to get with the program! This was not about politics, this was not about defining who was right or who was wrong. It was about life. It was about seeing everyone had an opportunity to experience the opportunity to make healthy choices and take new directions when and where necessary. These were a people who knew that at the end of each day they could be rejuvenated to face tomorrow. They had indeed experienced the freedom to be addicted to life!

P.S. Congratulations to the initial staff of five persons and thirty young people who began this process. In the last 24 years people from over 120 countries have now experimented with these concepts and adapted them to life situations.

Old Goals often inspire new goals: Go for it!

Today is a very special day for me. Today I share a birthday with my brother. We have turned 61. I never thought this day would come. Because of all the illness over the years it just never crossed my mind that 61 was possible. Then over this last year somewhere along the line it crossed my mind that I don’t seem to be dying. In fact I seem to be getting stronger. I know there are many things that will need to be done to continue this. I have successfully lost the 30 pounds I had set as a goal. Now I am creating a new goal. I want to lose 1225 pounds in 12 months.

This is my plan.

1. I will personally lose another 30 pounds.

2. For each pound lost I will donate $1 to a specific charitable cause.

3. I will invite others to join me.

4. Each person will decide if they want to lose a pound, maintain weight loss or want to set a goal of doing something significant about creating a healthy lifestyle.

5. Again each person will be asked to donate $ to the charity of their choice based on the goal that has been created.

6. I will add all the attained goals together with the desire of reaching the number 1225.

7. I will then invite each person to talk about this on the My Program page on Facebook.

Hopefully we will be able to be nurturing and supportive to each other. At the end of this process the 1225 will represent a number of things. 1 weight loss. 2 lives changed. 3 money donated to charity.

Touched by Grace

Developing a good neighbor policy: no strings attached.

Question 4, What are some church based experiences that motivate you to want to give of yourself to others?

Since I first started attending churches there have been a lot of changes. Minnesota, where I was born and raised is/was a Lutheran state. At the time of their immigration my ancestors came from Lutheran dominated countries.

One day when we were young my brother snuck off and attended a vacation Bible school program at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. He came home and said you have got to go with me. For each kid he brought with him he got a prize. It was an introduction to the free-market mentality of evangelicalism. Everyone is fair game.

This goes back many years and brings back many memories. Perhaps your religious experience is similar. It is important to rehearse the positive memories as well.

At this time I choose to make a list of a handful of stories about experiences, church experiences that became defining moments, turning points in my life.

1. My baptism.

2. The altar call.

3. The mission call.

4. The call to preach.

5. The handshake.

6. The vision.

7. Thank you.

1. I was baptized at our Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Paul Minnesota. I was the third child of my mother’s second marriage. My older sister, my twin brother, me, and our baby sister were all brought to the church, midday for a private baptism service. The circumstances around that event are enough for a whole other story. We walked into the church. I remember tapping my hand on the side of each pew as we walked forward. There was a man standing way up front wearing a robe. As we approached him I became very nervous. God, was not much of a subject in our home. Somehow, instinctively I knew this was about God. A voice inside of me, my own voice said, “I guess this means you want something.” We continued our walk to the front. I don’t remember the rest. My baptism became a defining moment in my life. I have never forgotten it or the sense of God being present.

2. I have already mentioned my brother enticing me to vacation Bible school. When VBS was over there was a Friday evening gospel service. Pastor Clarence Matthews stood in the pulpit and preached his sermon. I remember him standing in the pulpit talking. I don’t remember what he said. I do remember I liked him. When he was done preaching he thanked all the kids for coming to VBS. He then said he wanted to lead us in this favorite hymn, “Just as I am.” When we finished singing what seemed like the first hundred verses he said I think God is talking to someone, then all of a sudden someone got up and walked to the front of the church, knelt down, and started to talk real softly. A member of the church was there to listen. Then we started singing the next hundred verses. It happened all over again. Pastor Matthews said I think God is talking to someone. Just like before a person got up and walked to the front of the church, knelt down, and started talking. Another member of the church was there to listen. Now this whole process got my attention. I said to myself, “self” this is scary stuff. What if God wanted to talk to me? I decided not to listen. Then all of a sudden it happened all over again, and again, and again. I closed my eyes so as not to “hear” what was going on. Then pastor Matthews said it was time to stop. As the song was coming to an end pastor said “I know I said I was going to stop” but, in my heart I believe God is saying there’s one more person God is talking to. I don’t believe he finished the sentence before I ran to the front of the church, slid to my knees and said “ sorry God, it was just scary thinking you wanted to talk to me.” That night I prayed, Jesus, forgive me and come into my life. I have never forgotten that incident.

3. One evening there were a group of people at the church who wanted to go to a missionary meeting at St. Paul Bible college. I think I was about 11 years old. They asked me if I wanted to go with them. I said, sure. So off we went. When we got to the college I was all inspired by the character of the building we were walking into. The wooden stairs creaked, the railings were smooth to the touch. The double doors were massive and had clouded glass. Once inside the building I was stunned, I just stood there. Everyone I was with kept walking and all of a sudden I realized I was alone. I heard what sounded like someone calling my name. The voice was a whisper. Carl. I looked all over to see who was calling me. No one was there. I then ran down the hall in the direction my friends had gone. I went in through a set of double doors, found a chair and sat down. I listened to the missionaries and all they had to say. Their stories were fascinating. And then just as soon as everything started it was over. I just sat there in amazement. Before I realized it everyone had left the room. As I got up to leave the room I heard my name, Carl. I ran very fast. I ran through the double doors. I ran down the hall and out through the big doors and down the stairs. There in the distance were the people I came with. They were waiting by the car. One of them looked at me and said, we were afraid we’d lost you, we were about to go back in to see if we could find you. In the car all the way home I never said a word. I only wondered about all that transpired that evening. Once again, it was a moment I have never forgotten.

4. St. Paul Bible college was to play an important part in my life. Years had gone by and I found myself being a student studying missions. During that time the assistant Dean at the college got a letter from a church asking if there was a student who would be available to go out and preach in North Dakota. The Dean called me into his office and told me the story about this church. I was excited, I said I would be very happy to go there. I also told the Dean that I would not be attending school next semester because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. Please ask the people if they would mind if I came early. He called them, they said I could come as soon as I wanted. I finished the semester I was in and drove out to Western North Dakota. I preached my first sermon on Easter Sunday morning. I think one person stayed awake. I had written my sermon out so as not to make a mistake. I went back to where I was staying after the morning message, sat in my chair, closed my eyes, and began to pray. Lord, I am sorry, I blew it. Then tears came to my eyes. I do not know how long I sat in the chair. During my time in North Dakota I fell in love with these people. One lady said she believed their churches call was to help young preachers get started. When the summer was drawing to a close this congregation and the neighboring congregation got together and asked me if I would be willing to stay. They said I could continue my schooling at the nearby University. They said all my expenses will be covered. They said they really wanted me to stay. With tears in my eyes I told them that I believed that I needed to finish my school at the Bible college. My call, as I understood it had been confirmed. Those months in North Dakota stay with me, and continue to encourage me throughout my ministry.

5. It was a sunny day and people were filling the sanctuary. As people came into the church I greeted them, smiled and proceeded to do what was necessary before worship began. That morning was much like other Sunday mornings. As the worship service was coming to an end I gave the benediction, walked down the center aisle and waited at the back of the church to shake hands with people as I normally did. Then, as people greeted me and older lady stopped. She reached forward with her right hand, then, she placed her left hand so that both her hands covered my right-hand. She looked at me, smiled and said “pastor, when you started to talk about… I knew God was speaking to me.” She went on to talk a moment about the stress she was facing during the week. Again she smiled, said, thank you for being God’s servant. After the service I went home. At the dinner table I talked with my wife about what had happened. I told her that I was learning that the sermon wasn’t always what I thought was it was. I had come to believe that the morning worship service was an event, an environment of worship. Each element of the service was a part of the whole and not the focus of worship. I had been learning that as I walked into the sanctuary I was walking to the presence of God. God was speaking in the silence, in the song, in the prayer, in the greetings of one person to another, in all facets of the worship. This lady had heard God speak to her. It was my job to see that the worship time in the sanctuary was free of barriers and obstacles. It was to be a place where God could be heard. The handshake was merely an affirmation of what God was doing.

6. Christ Community Hospital in Oak Lawn Illinois was sponsoring a clinical pastoral education program. During that time a number of conferences were also held in the hospital auditorium. One of these conferences was headlined by NBC. They had a wonderful idea to sponsor walk-in clinics in neighborhoods across the United States. At this meeting they presented the idea. I just happened to be in that meeting and asked them if they would like to use our church. At first our church board was quite skeptical but after a long meeting one of the elders started to laugh. He concluded that this would be a wonderful opportunity for our church to reach into our community in a caring way. Now, those of you who know the inside working and politics of small churches know there was a lot more to it than that. The board was concerned that if we did this no one would show up. Why should we waste our time? The question echoed through the first few meetings. Then the elder who laughed said, think about it. If no one shows up we will have gotten all that free advertising. The community, whether they come or not, will understand that we are trying to be there in a special way. This elder won the day. One of the members of our church who shared in some of the other frustration around the skepticism and small church politics stepped forward and said I would like to help set this up. In the short time we had, many questions arose. She handled these questions like a trooper. Each day she was involved you could begin to see a smile form on her face. Each day her frustration began to change. The day of the event she was a transformed person. It was wonderful to see her, was wonderful to work with her and wonderful to hear the joy she translated to all the visitors. The date of the event the people began to line up outside the front door. By the time the day was over almost 900 people came to have their blood pressure checked, blood work done, and other basic tests run at no cost to them. It was a wonderful day, an almost unbelievable experience. Each time I tell the story my eyes begin to water.  I am moved to say a simple thank you to those who participated, for those who helped make it a successful event, to NBC for their vision and to God for such a wonderful opportunity.

7. Thank you. The apostle Paul found himself thanking people who had opened doors for him during his ministry. For almost 20 years the Presbyterian Churches in Calgary, Alberta Canada played a very special role in my life, in my family’s lives, in my work, and in my ministry. I want to tell a story. It is the closing story used in my last sermon preached in Calgary. I had used the text where the apostle Paul was thanking those who had supported his ministry in a special way. On this my final sermon in Calgary I preached through the sermon and came to the conclusion by sharing a simple story. It must be noted that in Calgary Presbyterians often get teased for being so reserved. The story is as follows:

A man died and went to heaven. He met St. Peter at the pearly gates. Peter confirmed his reservation. Peter then took him inside the gates. Peter asked the man if there was something he would like to do. The man said I would like to spend some time in worship. Peter then said follow me. He took him down a long hall. At the first door he said these are the salvationists. You remember the holiness churches and others. They often have drums and horns and other instruments. The man said, “show me more.” Peter continued his journey. The next group he said  like to say amen, and speak out during the sermon. The man said I would like to continue the journey. There were many doors in what seemed like an unending hallway. Then as Peter and this man came to the end of the hall way, Peter said you must be very quiet. These are the Presbyterians. Their worship is very liturgical and mostly very reserved. Then Peter said please do not mistake this process for lack of enthusiasm. On the contrary these are a group of people who have come to understand what it is to stand in the “awe” of God. That is a quieting experience.

So often throughout the week my life had been pulled in so many directions by social and political issues. As we walked into the worship service we were often met by the traditional singing of Holy Holy Holy. This rendition of the opening hymn grabbed my attention and caused me to focus on God. God is the starting point of all ministry. The work of God is the mandate of the ministry. The ministry needed to be kept in focus. The Presbyterians helped me do that. Thank you.

 

What motivates you?

Question 3 of Developing a Good Neighbor Policy: No Strings Attached.

Community-based programs are built because people who share common hopes and expectations learn how to work together. In many cases their backgrounds and life experiences have already prepared them for the task at hand. Please make a list of at least seven experiences that changed your life in a positive way. Think about it deeply and ask if these experiences have also motivated you to become the person you are.

As I reflect on this thought for myself I started to make a list:

1. The Gladstone fire department
2. McDonough housing project
3. The Maplewood Police Department
4. John Glenn Junior High School
5. The Boy Scout choir
6. The YMCA camp
7. The Ober Boys Club

1. It didn’t take long as I started to make a list to think about experiences that left lasting impressions on me. The Gladstone fire department came to our door one Christmas Eve just as our parents were beginning to tell us some realities about Christmas. We never heard a word our parents had to say because the fire department people had been so generous and brought toys for all of us. Their timing had been impeccable.

2. The McDonough housing project held an annual community sale. I have never forgotten my first experience being a part of that sale. Hundreds of people came and made donations. At the same time the prices were so affordable, a person could buy what they needed and they could also buy something they wanted. It left a vision that instilled hope.

3. One day while in school a police officer came and gave a talk to all the students. I was in grade five. After the talk, this police officer recognized me. He and other police officers had been called to pick up my father from the bars when he was drinking too late at night. It was not uncommon that I would be at the bar with my father. The policeman dropped my dad off at the station and then gave me a ride home. This time in school, at the end of the day, when all the kids were getting on their school buses this police officer called me by my name and asked if I wanted a ride in the squad car. I ran to the police car got in the front seat. The officer looked at me and said, “Go ahead Carl, turn the siren on.” The smile on his face told me he understood. The next day in school all the kids asked, “How did you get permission to do that?”

4. One day Mr. Ellis came to me. He was the art teacher at John Glenn Junior High School. He asked me to come to the parent teachers meeting and demonstrate how to use the potter’s wheel. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say. He had announced in class two weeks before that he would choose the best potter in class to do the demonstration. When he came to me, he said, “Carl, I want you to be my first choice to do the demonstration.” I was so surprised. He smiled at me and said “You’ve done really good work.”

5. When our family lived in McDonough housing project a man came knocking at our door. He asked if my brother and I wanted to join the Boy Scouts. He explained this to my mother. He called us all together and said this troop was going to form a boys choir and we were going to sing in the state capitol building. Week after week we practiced. Each week he would tell us we were going to sing in the state capital building. Each week he would tell us the call had not come yet. Then just before Christmas he drew us all together and said, “I am sorry, we did not get chosen to sing with the other choirs at the state capital.” He said, “I will not give up, we will sing at the state capitol.”

Each day we waited with anticipation. Each day we practiced, he would not let us quit. He would go door-to-door to our homes and say don’t give up. Each day Christmas drew closer and closer. Then one night the phone rang. It was one of the mothers. She said, “Call all the guys; meet at the community center NOW!”

We all arrived and within minutes our scoutmaster looked at us and said, “Tonight a very special bus is coming to pick us up. We’ve been asked to sing for the governor and his special guests.” Persistence won out.

6. I remember when a social worker showed up at our door. I think I was about eight years old, maybe a little older. She said, “The YMCA is holding summer camp and we would like you to go.” I was afraid and told my mother I did not want to go. The day came and they loaded all of us children on the bus. I remember sitting feeling all alone. For some reason I didn’t know any of these kids. I wasn’t scared, I was just afraid. I did not know what to expect. When we got to the camp one of the counselors came to me and walked me to my cabin. He explained that this is where I was going to be for the next two weeks. As he turned and walked away I began to cry. The first day was long and lonely. The second day seemed even longer and lonelier. One of the camp counselors came to me and asked if I could go with him. He took me to each of the events and stayed with me. Then he asked another camp counselor to go with me and work on some other events. Then the counselor gave me to another counselor. All of a sudden I fit. I did not even see or feel the fear dissolve. Compassion and caring worked.

7. One day after school something happened. I don’t remember what it was. All I remember is that all of a sudden I was in a fight. Within a few minutes a school bus drove up. On the side of the bus were the words Ober Boys Club. The driver said he had finished his run and he saw us. After getting off the bus he pulled us apart and he said, “If you boys are going to fight you better learn how to fight right!” He said come with me. He put us on the bus took us to the club. We went inside and there was a boxing ring with boxing gloves. He took the gloves and told us to put them on. He taught us how to stand, how to throw a punch, how to duck and how to breathe. After he was done, he let us box one round. When it was all over he said, “There’s a time and place to fight, there is a right way and a wrong way.” He then took us back onto the bus and drove us home. I still remember the words, “There’s a right way, and a wrong way.”

Please take time to work on this exercise: Developing a Good Neighbor Policy NSA.

If you are going to develop a community program it will be very beneficial to work with people who share your values and have similar life experiences. At the same time it is important to have a broad base of values and multiple experiences in order to build broader-based programs.

Developing your personal filter

Question 2. Who are the people in your life, from your religious experience, that have left positive lasting impressions?

There is no shortage of social issues or church mandates to grab our attention. Simply turn on the television and you will see umpteen groups wanting to serve and save Haiti, feed children in all parts of the world, do hospital work, educate, create a way for people to have clean water, send shoe boxes of presents… the list goes on. How will you and your church respond?

Open the newspaper, go online or pick up a magazine and churches—thousands of them—are there to tell you that they are the true church, the true followers of Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the line, for any one person to come to grips with this massive identity crisis of the church in society, each person needs to create a filter that will be helpful. I suggest to you that the filter is right in front of you.

Question #2: Who are the people in your life, from your religious experience, that have left positive lasting impressions? What have they done that causes you to say “I want to serve Christ”? I want to make a difference in showing God’s love to those around me. I will make a difference. These are the people who by their actions will have lain the groundwork for you. They are the ones who have helped you to understand the direction for you to go while you develop an outreach perspective in your life and church.

List seven such people, then tell a story of how they communicated this perspective to you, then list the value this story represents to you. Click here to view the entry form.

People who need people are the luckiest people…

The church needs to readdress its partnership with communities all around them. One way to do so is to participate in: Question 1, Developing a Good Neighbor Policy – No Strings Attached.

People who need people are the luckiest people… Where and when have you experienced that type of moment? The United Church at Mapleton is made up of people with strong perspectives. One of the things that I have come to understand from these people is that strong perspectives are necessary in order to make sense out of this ongoing societal malaise. Truth is often discovered not in the middle, but in dialog. It is true that the middle often allows people to exist in safety, but strong perspectives are like the spice of life. They are the roots of storytelling and moments of resolve. It is this type of perspective that affirms the value of the following exercise.

Question #1: Who are the people in your life or community who are significant leaders, people you can trust, people who live by a set of values that help nurture community? These are the people who you can partner with and should be partnered with in whatever it is you are beginning to develop. These leaders may be in your neighborhood, they may be in the larger community, they may be in your town, city, county or state. They are the leaders who influence the work and the community you want to live in. The issue here is that if you are choosing to build a program in your community, you will need to know how to collaborate with people in your community. List seven such people, then tell a story of how they communicated this perspective to you, then list the value this story represents to you. Click here to view the entry form.

Developing A Good Neighbor Policy – NSA

Developing a good neighbor policy arose out of participating in the creation of a dozen community programs while working with over 300 churches and 20 different denominations through various pastoral and community roles. Here I have listed nine questions and activities which will hopefully cause you think and talk together with others about some of the nuances that exist behind community development. Each item will link to an external worksheet. If you want to know more please contact me for further discussion.

#1): List seven people from the community who have influenced your life in a positive way.

#2): List seven people from your total church experience who have influenced your life in a positive way.

#3) List seven community based experiences that have influenced you in a positive way.

#4) List seven church based experiences that have influenced you in a positive way.

#5) List seven key words that have shaped your life.

#6) Define what you perceive to be the basic human, community and church needs.

#7) Define what you perceive to be the basic human, community and church wants.

#8) Who are you? Identify words that describe you in each of the following lists.

#9) List some activities you do for enjoyment.

Each of these activities is intended to direct your thinking to the behind the scenes scenarios needed in community development. It is far too easy to start with a conclusion without understanding what is actually going on in the community. Please take the time to think through the questions while at the same time answering them as quickly as possible. Clarify what the question is asking and then answer each with the first thought that comes to mind.

May God bless you as you reach into your community and develop your outreach philosophy.

Do not hesitate to contact Carl if you have any questions.