Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Engaged or Newlywed Friends

It’s the holiday shopping season and if you have engaged friends – or newlywed friends, or someone is about to pop the question – in your life on your shopping list, chances are you have their marriage in mind. Good, because so do they! At the time of this writing, I’ve officiated at fourteen weddings … Read more Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Engaged or Newlywed Friends

Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Pastor or Seminary Student

It’s the holiday shopping season and if you have a clergy person – or pastor or seminary student or church ministry professional – in your life who is on your shopping list, chances are you have their vocation in mind as a potential angle on the perfect gift. There’s a lot of “Christian Stuff” out … Read more Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Pastor or Seminary Student

Mission 2018 Day 05: On the Farm

It was a unique day for our team, Dear Reader, as all 20 people on the mission team from Hennepin Avenue UMC, Richfield UMC, and Northfield UMC got together on the same work sites. Read on to learn about what it was like down on the farm. And the other farm!
Farming Hope in the Heart of the City
D-Town Farms is an urban farm focusing on food justice for its community. Growing a variety of crops, from scallions and cabbages to garlic and beyond, this mighty effort isn’t just growing food but awareness and empowerment. The farm itself is city-owned land they lease and there’s plenty of space as it was a former tree nursery back in the day. Now, they cultivate crops to sell at local markets and their own Saturday sales on-site. The most popular crops include okra, kale, and collards but beyond the crops getting grown on purpose there are plenty of edible “weeds” throughout the farm and we got to try

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Mission 2018 Day 04: Go Tigers!

Today was a “half day” but a full day, Dear Reader! Read on for updates on morning work projects, afternoon outings, and a night at the ballpark.
Rippling Hope Spreading Far and Wide
Team #2 went to work with Rippling Hope for the morning. Started by husband-and-wife missionary team Carl and Robin, they kicked this ministry off 8 years ago after working with many church ministries throughout their lives. However, when funding shifted they were invited to Detroit to try something new and here they are to stay. How do we know? They just bought a house and are planting roots in the community they’re trying to help cultivate into something beautiful. I admire their courage and their trust in Jesus!
Much of their work is in home repair, beautification projects like Free Little Libraries, plus a lot of work for animals. There are cat colonies all over the city, because sadly as homes become abandoned so do animals. Dogs and cats are wild and need change, too. Rippling Hope creates outdoor cat shelters (almost like Free Little Libraries without the stand) and work with the Animal Human Society to do TNR work. That’s “Trap, Neuter, Release.” They help trap the cats, the AHS neuters and spays for free, and they’re released to the same areas they know. Our work with the animals came in the form of hauling bags and bags of donated and low-cost bags of dog food and unloading a pallet of cat food bowls to donate to local residents. Our main work was at Ms. Stafford’s home.
Many homes have a run-down look on the outside. The tough part about that is if it looks a little rough outside, the interior is likely more than a little rough, especially the parts one can’t immediately see where rotting, etc. can take place. Still, without a lot of money to get to the much-needed renovations and upgrades, some organizations are doing priority repairs (stairs, for example) and beautification to build pride and rebuild morale until major repairs can be done. That was our job today at Ms. Stafford’s home. We broke into two groups, with 8 of us chipping then repainting the wide porch to give her home a cleaner, brighter look. The stairs had just been repaired by another group and that’s key: you can’t make it to dialysis 3-4 times a week if you can’t get out of your house! I appreciate Rippling Hope making practical repairs a priority.
Meanwhile, Jenna and I headed inside to replace and/or install a series of smoke detectors throughout the home. At one point, we needed an extra 9-volt battery, so we hopped in the van and ended up with an extra tour of the city. We saw several giant buildings, now shallow husks of yesteryear. Smashed windows, overgrown razor wire fencing, crumbling concrete barriers. One giant factory had the gates wide open. Anyone could walk in there, including little kids, which frightens me a bit. We also saw a few homes which had

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Mission 2018 Day 03: Alleyways and Stairways

Today was our first full work day with Motown Mission and it was a full one! I have more details about Team #2 than Team #1 and will fill in the gaps later down the line as I’m able. In the meantime, please know your prayers and support truly do matter. Thank you to all of you for loving us from back home, it means a lot.
Rock the Block
There are dozens of projects in Detroit that are all working to remake the city. Whether through beautification or refurbishment, repair or gardening, if you can name a way the city can improve, there’s at least one organization working on it. There are more than just 501c3 entities or corporations hard at work, though. Sometimes, it’s just plain neighbors.
Electra is the president of her neighborhood block association, Gateway, part of an Historic District Alliance of neighbors trying to help all parts of the city come back. A worshiper at Metropolitan UMC, she and her team have partnered with Motown Mission to get volunteers into their neighborhood and change it one sweep of the rake at a time. We right to work with her and her volunteer team early this morning.
Time Out: Quick Caveat…
This is a good moment to offer a caveat to everything I’m writing all week, Dear Reader: I’m doing my best with the truth. I’m not doing a lot of scholarly work on the Detroit situation as I’m writing here. Rather, I rely on the eyewitness testimony of the people we’re working with to tell me the story from their point of view. I could very well write something here that down the road someone can come back to me and say it’s factually wrong and if so I’ll gladly offer a correction. But in the meantime, you’ll hear the stories as the storytellers tell me what’s on their hearts and minds.
Hey, we’re all doing our best, okay? Okay…
Back to the Action:

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Mission 2018 Day 2: Here we come, Detroit!

Welcome to Day 2 (of 8, if you’re wondering), a day mostly in the van and in our bunks. Despite that, here’s the scoop. Wakey, Wakey, Eggs n’ Bakey! We were able to have a nice, leisurely wake up on Sunday, with a round of showers followed by a bagel breakfast. Cross Winds UMC was … Read more Mission 2018 Day 2: Here we come, Detroit!

Mission 2018 Day 1: Off to Detroit! (via Chicago)

Hello, Dear Reader!
Welcome to what is typically an annual tradition of a round of blog posts about a summer mission trip experience. It’s my hope to bring you near-daily rounds of written updates and plenty of photography. As these blog posts are often written after others are in bed (because that, frankly, is the only “down time” there is to write), I thank you for your grace as these come up and hope you’ll forgive the occasional typo or odd sentence just in case I fall asleep at the keyboard and purple monkey dishwasher.
This year, the church I serve, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, has teamed up with Richfield United Methodist Church and a good friend from Northfield United Methodist Church to serve Jesus at Motown Mission in Detroit, Michigan. Our team is 7 adults and 13 youth entering grades 8-12, with some of us on our very first mission trip. We’re a diverse crew of many different backgrounds and identities, though we all have one common identity: beloved children of God. We hope to remember this at all times as we band together as “the church” for our week serving at Motown Mission (you’ll learn more about this organization and their local partners as the week goes on).

Read moreMission 2018 Day 1: Off to Detroit! (via Chicago)

How I almost made our church be one of the churches slamming the door on Jen Hatmaker (and why slamming doors reminded me to keep ours open).

Friends, we’re minutes away from Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman’s sold-out evening show, Moxie Matters, at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church where I serve as Associate Pastor. The matinee was a blast and I’m excited for tonight. What a pleasure it was to meet Jen, Nichole, and their team. The 600-person matinee audience shared laughter, tears, stories, and songs. The evening audience will do the same, and with just as much moxie! I’m always amazed at the vulnerability, hope, and community that is shared in that magnificent sanctuary.
I also want to share this article I wrote for our church’s newsletter this month. It shares a little about how I almost said “No” what’s clearly an amazing event. I’m going to offer you my vulnerability and tell you this story. May my teachable moment be a teachable moment for how we all stop divisiveness, practice inclusion, and build God’s kingdom of love. Thanks for stopping by, Dear Reader. If you’re new, thanks for subscribing and sharing.
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Originally published the in Inspire magazine for Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church:
Moxie Matters Tour
I’m proud of this church for walking with people on their faith journeys. Each of us has our own unique spiritual path to find and to follow. No one’s journey is without obstacles, nor is anyone’s better than another’s, and dare I say I don’t think we’ll ever be “done” seeking God. Here’s a vulnerable moment I recently had on my
journey as one of your pastors.
On February 20, Hennepin will host the “Moxie Matters” tour featuring bestselling Christian author Jen Hatmaker and singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman. It’s going
to be a big one, friends—the evening show in the Sanctuary sold out in less than two days, and the matinee is on its way to a sell-out, too. I’m proud we’re hosting this tour. However, that’s not where I started. When Jen’s tour team reached out to Hennepin to ask if we would serve as a tour stop venue, I admit I was hesitant. True, I knew Jen’s message more by reputation than by my own reading, but

Read moreHow I almost made our church be one of the churches slamming the door on Jen Hatmaker (and why slamming doors reminded me to keep ours open).

Mission 2017 Supplemental: Why We Do What We Do


I thought I’d take a pause midway through the week to write about the “Why” behind this mission trip. After all, we got underway with a pretty sparse post and here we are, halfway in without much context, save for those who are here and/or who have sent loved ones. And with that, let’s take a moment to explore why we’re here and why we’re doing what we’re doing in Washington, D.C. and Steubenville, Ohio.
Rev. Lyndy Zabel is the Director of Missional Impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Through his office, he helps steer the Conference’s connections with outreach ministries and partnerships across the nation and the world. Through a Conference grant, Pastor Lyndy hoped to revive an old Conference tradition of bringing young people out east for a taste of faith meets politics. When I found out this trip to Washington, D.C. would happen during the same week that Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church traditionally goes on a mission trip, I spoke with my team about the possibility, and here we are. It’s a Conference-wide trip with teens and adults from at least six churches coming together.
This mission trip has three distinct mission fields: justice, compassion, and community. Here’s the context that participants and their families received before departure:

Read moreMission 2017 Supplemental: Why We Do What We Do