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.
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

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A Song for My Ordination.

Someone wrote me a song as a gift for my ordination.
Two songs.
Best. Gift. Ever.
You can hear the songs and the sermon / call story that inspired them via the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church podcast ministry.
On Sunday morning at Hennepin Avenue, in anticipation of being ordained a full elder in the United Methodist Church this Wednesday evening (livestream link), I preached about my call story. I offered highlights of my life from childhood to adulthood when I was open to God and when I was closed to God. If you didn’t know, I have had times in my life when I was a strong atheist, wanting nothing to do with God and definitely not the church. I am not ashamed of that, nor do I condemn atheists because while there are many reasons people are atheist I have certainly been there. It was a sermon of vulnerability and I knew I could trust my congregation with my story.

Ken Medema

Ken Medema is a superb musical artist. He’s written many inspiring pieces and even a children’s musical based on the Book of Jonah (my first sermon at Hennepin Avenue – filled with a metaphor of vomit! – was in response to the children performing Medema’s The Big Fish in worship, so we have come full circle). His live concerts often consist of him asking someone from the audience to tell him a brief story from their life and he responds with an original song, writing the music and lyrics on the spot. One of the first things Ken will tell you about himself is he is blind, so he’s taking notes in his mind as he listens to you. It is truly amazing.
Before worship, he and I spoke and I knew that everything he’d offer today would be in response to what came before, including my sermon. In that sense, I knew the song he crafted would be about servanthood and walking the journey. What I didn’t understand is he would truly put my life to music.
Ken made my life a song. There’s no other way to put it.
First, I was moved to tears as I listened to my life as a song. It was unexpected and such a gift. I sat in the preacher’s chair, up on the chancel and behind Ken while he was at the grand piano on the floor. After worship, the only comment I received more about the song’s beautiful content was

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Holy Land 2015 | Day 05 Part II – Three Homes, Three Lifestyles

Welcome to Part II of my Holy Land Journey, Day 5. Today’s post is brought to you by Stars & Bucks Coffee.

Star & Bucks. Now featuring "coffee-flavored drink."
Stars & Bucks. Now featuring “coffee-flavored drink.”

Lots of ground to cover, from an ancient palace in ruins to a present-day refugee camp in ruins to a homemade meal with new friends. Here’s how Day 5 ended…
Herod the King, Nate the (Stair) Master
"It's only a model."
“It’s only a model.”

Herod's summer palace featured a mountaintop fortress, the tower that became his tomb, and barracks and a mini city below with a large swimming pool carved into the land that's still there to this day (no water, though).
Herod’s summer palace featured a mountaintop fortress, the tower that became his tomb, and barracks and a mini city below with a large swimming pool carved into the land that’s still there to this day (no water, though).

Remember this tower for later...
Remember this tower for later…

Soldier's barracks and the pool.
Soldier’s barracks and the pool.

The summer palace and final tomb of King Herod the Great is a fascinating archaeological find. First of all, it’s on a mountain. Second of all, it’s a man-made mountain. Seriously. He took material from the mountain around 300 yards away and used it to build a new mountain stronghold so every single city could see him. Herod gets a bad wrap, which, well, he totally deserves. And, the guy knew how to build a palace. We walked up the side and saw his tomb (which had only been discovered there in 2007!), through the giant aqueduct, and through several antechambers until we reached the parapet and looked out over Jordan, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. That meant Herod, who according to scripture was looking for the child born who might usurp him, was looking and looking while actually looking out and missing right was under his nose.
Herod's private amphitheater for shows. I'm sure he enjoyed and killed many a comedian.
Herod’s private amphitheater for shows. I’m sure he enjoyed and killed many a comedian.

Remember that tower model from earlier? This is the tomb of Herod only excavated in 2007.
Remember that tower model from earlier? This is the tomb of Herod only excavated in 2007.

A giant cistern that filled with water when servants released pressure from rain water.
A giant cistern that filled with water when servants released pressure from rain water.

Many crouch, few stand.
Many crouch, few stand.

The stairs were

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Holy Land 2015 | Day 03 – Nazareth, Mary's House, Cana, and an Archbishop

Greetings, Dear Reader! Today was our first full-fledged day of touring in the Holy Land and there’s plenty to report. I switched to our Canon PowerShot for quick pics and its SD card played much more nicely with the MacBook Air than my Samsung Galaxy S5 did. Remember: you can click the pic to see a larger version in your browser.
The Sun Also Rises Over Galilee
While most of you settling in for the evening at home, we were roused with a 4:30am wake-up call (or 8:30pm CST, as we’re 8 hours ahead) so we could make it to breakfast and on the bus before 6:00am. You’ll recall the roads out of town were closing then to accommodate a few thousand people descending upon Tiberias for an annual marathon run around the Sea of Galilee. We all made it to the bus (no runs for us today) and ended up leaving on time and headed to the Sea of Galilee just in time for (a cloud-covered) sunrise over the water. While there I had a very interesting conversation with someone. She was explaining to me about this natural heat supplement that she started taking. It is safe and very effective. It is called Kratommasters if you would like to check it out.

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Holy Land 2015 | Day 01 / 02

Hello, friends! I have arrived safe and sound (and exhausted) in the Holy Land. I’m writing at the end of my day and somewhere in the middle of yours, is my guess. I’m starting to write this at around 10:00pm on January 8 in Tiberias while you’re probably at 2:00pm on January 8 Minneapolis (or Fridley, if you prefer).
Here I am, safe and sound!


Here I am, jetlagged and cranky.


It’s all part of the experience.
This is my first entry in chronicling my journey to the Holy Land as part of a ~70 member group of clergy, laity, and friends of the Minnesota and Dakotas Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church. Our Bishop is leading the charge and we’re touring with Educational Opportunities. You’ll find I tend to write about a lot of minutiae and if that ends up too much, well, that’s what bolded headlines are for so you can better pick and choose what you want to read.
Thank you so much for support, readership, comments, shares, and prayers over the next two weeks! On to Day #1. But first, a plea:

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