Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Eight

Ya know, God's grace has been flowing through all the stuff I've been whining about for eight whole chapters.

The monsoon of church and family struggles has drowned my self-righteousness. My "good deeds" float around as debris.

  • My decades of ordained ministry - building up congregations, buildings, programs and organizations - have done nothing to stop the decay of The Episcopal Church. But the other day, God had me at a dying man's bedside. I don't even remember what I prayed - that was a gift from God. And this man unburdened himself of a lifetime of sin, found peace, and went on to paradise. As Jesus tells us, heaven threw a big party. I'm learning that more of the universe moves when I rely on the Holy Spirit than when I sweat and strain to stop the world's turnings.
  • My frantic efforts (I've been doing two part-time jobs along with my parish work) have not balanced the family budget. But unexpected gifts from friends have pulled us through.
  • My hours of worrying and complaining have not cured the health problems in my household. But giving thanks for the grace of my own good health has helped me care for my family, using Christ's strength at work in me.
  • All of my noble efforts (listed above in glorious detail!) have not made me more saintly - they've made me cranky, cynical and morbid. But limping toward Christ in prayer has nurtured the fruit of the Spirit.

Lucado likens our sins to a compost heap at the foot of the cross. Compost heaps are smelly and gross looking, but they contribute to wonderful gardens. Even when we've been fruitless in our efforts to "be good", Jesus is tending us. The experience might stink for a season, but Christ pleads for our needs and becomes our righteousness - making us a pleasing offering to our Father in heaven.

Chapter 9 (half-way thru the book!) on Friday.

The Episcopal Church Whips on You

Please sign the petition asking TEC to disclose how much money it is spending to sue faithful Christians, and what church funds are being raided for this.

Also, have a look at the proposed Canon Law changes that TEC is creating in order to "discipline" even lay members who object to what the bureaucrats demand.

Those of us still in TEC are part of an institution that is at best crazy, at worst evil.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Seven - UPDATED

Hey, I mowed our lawn and pulled weeds this weekend, but life around here still feels like the jungle Lucado describes on p. 56: "... thickets of failing health, broken hearts, and empty wallets."

Multiple family health problems have brought us close to despair over the last few years.

My heart is certainly broken by The Episcopal Church's descent into madness and apostasy.

And the medical problems have emptied the wallet.

I can't speak for everybody in the family, but I've certainly felt lost and hopeless more than once. I have been in good company, though. The Apostle Paul dropped us a letter to say,

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (II Corinthians 1:8-11)

And Bishop Bob Duncan of the Anglican Communion Network said this today:
Ever so many of us have found ourselves living through an extended Good Friday. None of us, of course, have lived through anything like our Lord’s excruciating and singular Passion, but the emotional and spiritual depths of the present season have, for most of us, been like few other seasons of our lives. I shall never forget the darkness of the days and weeks beginning with last March’s House of Bishops Meeting. It was during those days at and after that Camp Allen meeting that I truly came to grips with the unavoidable fact that the denominational Church that had – from infancy – raised me, captured me, formed me and ordained me, no longer had any room for me, or any like me. How bitter the rejection! How total my failure! ... It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Your efforts and your prayers have sustained me. And our God has been good to us beyond measure.

All I can tell you (since I'm still in the midst of the jungle) is that prayer will keep you going. Prayer puts you in the presence of Jesus, who is The Way. And prayer is a means by which others, even at great distance, are helping you in ways you might not recognize until later in the journey.

I sign off now, asking our heavenly Father to restore your soul. May you discover needed supplies here as you hack through your jungle. Most of all, may the Bible verses shared here bring you, by the Holy Spirit, to Jesus Christ, who is the Way. Visit on Wednesday for thoughts on Chapter 8.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Which Sister Runs Your Church?

(Note: Today's summer book blog entry is one post down.)

From Fr. Matt Kennedy's sermon of July 22nd, on Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42).

When I first came to this church some very nice ladies came to me and said, "well we’re a church full of Martha’s not Mary’s so don’t expect to see many people at bible study." And then, later, I was told by a very fine gentleman, "Whatever you do, don’t preach over 10 minutes. There are so many other things to do on a Sunday morning than sit in church." And the idea behind both of these friendly warnings was that some people are workers and get things done in God’s kingdom and others go in for all the religious stuff. We’re the workers. We're the Marthas. Somehow, at some point, work and service in the church had come to serve as a rationale for neglecting the Word of God. (From his wife, Anne's blog.)

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Six

My wife recently used the term "baby steps", and this has become part of my prayer language. As we face several challenges, it is all too easy to fry our brains thinking and fretting about what Lucado calls "Whaddifs and Howells." Jesus tells us to be childlike if we want to make the difficult walk and find the gate to the the Kingdom of God. Baby steps.

Recently, some seriously prayerful people have been getting encouraging insights from God. Torre Bissel, who leads an intercessory ministry for the Diocese of Albany, NY, has been receiving some really comforting, uplifting messages since Easter. And Jill Woodliff, a faithful intercessor in Mississippi, recently listed several of the most emphatically anti-worry messages from the Bible.

Finally, as we take baby steps unburdened by yesterday's regrets and tomorrow's problems, we can maintain a childlike expectation of our Father's good gifts for his beloved children. Yesterday, a friend loaned me a book, and I was blessed by this wonderful quote from a famous Anglican priest and writer:

God made Sun and Moon to distinguish seasons, and day, and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons. But God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies. In paradise, the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is always Autumn: his mercies are ever in their maturity…

He brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light; he can bring thy Summer out of Winter, though thou have no Spring. Though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintered, and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the Sun at noon to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries. All occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons. John Donne (d. 1631), quoted in Ordinary Graces, Edited by Lorraine Kisly

May God's mercies surprise you this weekend, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Chapter 7 on Monday.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pray for Water

South Dakota needs rain - we are in a drought. Even normally wet Sioux Falls has been without rain for over a month. And the Cheyenne River Tribal water system, serving about 14,000 people on the Reservation, is in distress. Please keep us in your prayers.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Five

I really liked his discussion of the IV Commandment (Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy).

The hours when we should be sleeping are Sabbath time as well. We should turn our lives over to God and trust Him to run the universe while we are snoozing.

But, as the chapter points out, our minds fill with so many things. Kendall Harmon recently posted David Yount's challenging article about workaholics, The addiction we consider a virtue. I just heard a radio story indicating that Americans are pretty far down the list (lower than 40th, if I heard right) when comparing the lifespans of different nationalities.

Weariness, as our chapter points out, isn't just physical - it is a spiritual problem. Psalm 95 reminds us that rebellion against God keeps us from receiving the rest that He wants us to enjoy. The late night service known as Compline always includes a short time of confession - closing the day by admitting our sins and accepting God's mercy in Christ instead of stewing in guilty frustration all night.

If you tend to be up in the wee hours, read Morning Prayer or a version of Lauds. Join the whole creation in lifting praise to God as a new day approaches. We have a big, dumb (sweetly so) dog who wakes me up too early sometimes. But, here in South Dakota, her early morning needs have led me to appreciate the star-filled sky, the early morning orchestra of birds in the Spring, the glow of fresh snow in the winter - and to praise the Creator (and thank Him for good coffee, too).

Some years ago, a friend suggested reading the Psalms when one is unable to sleep. Just open the Bible to the Psalms and start reading. It is not that they are boring, but they are God's own pasture for our troubled, weary spirits. It's not about counting sheep, but, as our chapter says, about being sheep in the loving, dedicated care of our Good Shepherd.

I once viewed an exhibit of Santos, carved wooden folk art from New Mexico. A Santo that really caught my attention was Buen Pastor - "Good Shepherd." Instead of the perky young shepherd so often portrayed in European art, this shepherd was squat, hunched and weathered. He'd obviously been laboring out in the elements for long, hard years. But the little sheep was safe and comfy on his heavy shoulders.

Jesus is our Buen Pastor, who suffered on earth and now lives forever to give us the divine help described in Psalm 121:

... he that keepeth thee will not sleep.

Behold, he that keepeth Israel * shall neither slumber nor sleep.

He's always "on" so we can be "off."

I wish you good reading, my friends in Christ. And good rest. Chapter 6 on Saturday.

Pray for Ranchers

High heat and drought conditions are really hurting their herds and finances.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Four

This chapter clobbered me.

The title and subtitle hit hard: The Prison of Want: The Burden of Discontent. I've been struggling with a bunch of discontents - family health issues, financial challenges, vocational questions - a bunch of stuff I can't fix (at least very quickly). Needless to say, my discontent has me in a spiritual dungeon. "I give up" lurks on the tip of my tongue.

Then Lucado lands another punch with his fill-in-the-blank exercise on page 32. "I will be happy when _____." I could fill a legal pad with stuff for that blank. My list of thanksgivings is pretty short (not because of an absence of blessings, but because I am looking at my wants instead). A very convicting little exercise, and it hurt.

Meanwhile, just to make myself more punchy, I read Bill Hybels' Holy Discontent. Some things should have us up in arms, if they are things that God wants to change. Jesus showed us this kind of discontent. And all of us should experience heartfelt frustration with our own sins.

One of my favorite spiritual writers is John of the Cross. His Ascent of Mount Carmel has much to say about cultivating holy discontent. "Nada" ("nothing") is his key word - the course of the Christian life is to label anything less than God as "nada." He counsels us to give up sins, of course, and material things that can become idols. But he also counsels a habit of setting aside good things (a favorite spot to pray, a favorite prayer book, etc.) because they, too, are not God. He likens the spiritual life to "weaning." The comfort of a mother's love and warmth, and the sustenance of her milk, are good things, but they are not our destiny. They, too, must be "nada" if we are to grow up. And he notes that mothers in his day would rub bitter herbs on their breasts when it was time to wean their children.

So, some of my discontents (I think of the vocational issues) might be holy. I've spent almost twenty years building stuff for The Episcopal Church, only to have TEC come in and exploit or corrupt it for a "nada" agenda. I should experience discontent with this situation.

But my personal discontents (the longer list) might well be the "bitter herbs" by which God is weaning me from self-centered wants ("nada" stuff). He wants me to be more in His presence, and more like His Son for my family and for other people He calls me to serve.

Looking forward to your comments. Chapter 5 on Thursday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

“Traveling Light” – Chapter Three

What hit me as I read this Chapter (“I’ll Do it My Way – the Burden of Self-Reliance”) is that Anglican Christian worship contains many correctives for this all-too-American way of thinking.

To offer an Anglican worship service takes the participation of a very large part of the congregation. Our use of music, liturgical art/decoration, available roles for both lay and ordained worship leaders and other factors involve a lot of people in preparation for and celebration of the liturgy. Anglican worship expresses the church as Christ’s body, in which each person is a part, and where all the parts are needed (as Paul affirms in I Corinthians 12).

The very words of traditional Anglican liturgy point us toward Jesus Christ, who is for us what we can never be for ourselves: “…full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world…” Words like Redeemer, Savior, Mediator and Advocate fill our worship, announcing our reality as a flock in real need of the Good Shepherd.

Our traditional language for confession of sin is without parallel in portraying human insufficiency and Christ’s sufficiency for us: ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

Anglicanism that is true and attentive to its spiritual sources teaches that I can’t “do it my way.” I am not self-sufficient to save my own soul and stand before a righteous, just God. Anglican worship connects and reconnects me to the Good News – “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.” (Job 19:25-27, used in The Order for the Burial of the Dead.)

Looking forward to your thoughts. I will post on Chapter 4 early next week. Have a blessed weekend and may you hear the Good Shepherd’s voice in worship.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter Two

This chapter, subtitled The Burden of a Lesser God, resonates with several recent or coming Bible lessons.

This Sunday, many will hear about Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary. It contrasts Martha, busy with "many things," and her sister, Mary, who listened to Jesus for "the one thing that cannot be taken away."

Morning Prayer lessons this week have included:
  • I Samuel's account of Hannah, who in her time of need let nothing come between her and God.
  • Luke 11:37ff, in which Jesus warns against using external religious behavior as a poor (and destructive) substitute for true relationship with God.
  • Luke 12:1-12, a truly Trinitarian passage in which Jesus tells us to fear God (the Father), confess the Son and honor and rely upon the Holy Spirit. (Jesus tells us to elevate God above all earthly powers).

Lucado rightly notes the awesome wonder of God (why would we seek help from anyone else?) and, at the same time, the intimate love of God who wants us to know His very name.

I don't intentionally "worship" anybody or anything to the extent that I value them more than God. I'm more like Martha, letting "many things" pull me this way and that until I'm not listening for that One voice I really need to hear and follow. So often, I find that when my prayer life gets hurried or neglected, "many things" move in to claim my attention.

Looking forward to your thoughts. I will post on Ch. 3 Thursday night, then be out of town for a bit. Will take up Ch. 4 next week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Traveling Light" - Chapter One

Welcome to our summer book blog!

Chapter One, The Luggage of Life, added a mirror to my luggage. I was looking right at myself as I read.

I’ve been grappling with the wisdom of a former colleague who said, “The Priest is at the altar, not on the altar.” I tend to take on all kinds of responsibilities as though I have more to offer than did Jesus on the cross. Archbishop Oscar Romero (who was worthy to become a martyr) had the humility to say, “We are the messengers, not the Messiah.”

So, lately I’ve been confessing that I carry around the luggage of self-appointed Messiah. I recognize that this has been piling up since childhood. My older brother died, and I spent my life trying to carry my parents’ crushing load of grief. I’ve tried and tried to fix/save/make nice every situation for everybody. Perfect clergy breeding program, huh?

But to return to Lucado imagery: I lug a trunk full of self-justification. I keep a carry-on bag of fear (trying to be perfect keeps one in perpetual fear of failure). I must have at least a case of snake-oil – after all, if I think I can “save” the world better than Jesus, I am a supreme snake-oil salesman (kinda like TEC’s Presiding Bishop with her “more gracious strand” ideas, but I digress).

And I recognize that I carry a pretty big cosmetics case. I have been trying to polish up and make-over The Episcopal Church for some time. Trying to mike nice and presentable what is really ugly and shameful.

Psalm 23, on which Lucado builds the book, is all about God bringing the necessary stuff. God sets the table. Jesus gives his body and blood. I need to stop acting as though I can do better.

Looking forward to what you are getting out of the book! Will post about Ch. 2 on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Diocese of South Dakota Declares Revolution Against Worldwide Christianity, Shrinks Again

2006 Statistics for the Diocese of South Dakota are in print with the Diocesan Journal of the 2006 Annual Convention. Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) fell yet again, down from over 2,300 in 2005 to 2,192 in 2006.

Bishop Robertson's Convention Address is in the Journal as well. He said:

...we have been called to a new place...not an expression of our American colonialism...After all, isn't that what we celebrate on July 4 of each year...we affirm the revolution? Maybe it is time for us to speak out not only for the presence of gays and lesbians in our midst, but for all those minorities that make us who we are as a church and society: blacks, Natives, women, Asians, the lame, the poor, the marginalized in our society. Maybe God's Spirit is calling us to something new... (Journal p. 24-5)

Actually, the Spirit seems to be calling more people out of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Dakota. Instead of an Apostolic witness to the world and all its people, TEC declines more and more into a few people who talk only to each other.

Friday, July 13, 2007


1) Our Summer Book Blog opens this Monday! You might still have time to get your hands on Traveling Light by Max Lucado. Follow our reading schedule at the link and let's share insights as we grow in Christ.

2) If you haven't read it yet, please please please see Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi's article, What Is Anglicanism? Read it and share it with friends (Heck, send it to anti-Anglicans. They might learn something). You will never again be able to read the empty gruel served up by the Episcopal Church after you have read this clear explanation by a modern Apostle.

Choosing Sides

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." Luke 11:23 (Morning lesson, 1928 BCP lectionary)

  • The Episcopal Church lost 36,000 members in 2003, another 36,000 in 2004, and 42,000 in 2005.
  • The Diocese of South Dakota saw reported membership decrease from 12,000 to 11,000 between 2003 and 2005; actual worship attendance fell from over 2,600 to 2,300 in the same period.
"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." Luke 11:28

Update: check this out over at TitusOneNine

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Spiritual DNA" (be wary of genetic manipulation!)

Church growth and development researchers speak of a church's "DNA." John Maxwell's INJOY Stewardship Services describes it this way:

We begin by discerning your church’s “DNA”—the essential distinguishing characteristics that make you who you are. We learn your history and connect it with your future.

In a real teaching masterpiece, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda discusses the DNA of both Anglicanism and his Province. His article is well worth your time and, if you care about Anglican Christianity at all, you will be inspired. He writes,

In the Church of Uganda, Anglicanism has been built on three pillars: martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate. Yet each of these refers back to the Word of God, the ground on which all is built: The faith of the martyrs was maintained by the Word of God, the East African revival brought to the people the Word of God, and the historic ordering of ministry was designed to advance the Word of God.

If you go back far enough in a church's history (your local church, your diocese, even a denomination or larger movement) you will find such strands of DNA. Churches suffer when they get busy with all kinds of things they were not put into the world to do. Their DNA is a gift from God, woven by the Holy Spirit as part of the Father's plan in Jesus Christ.

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is creating myths left and right to keep you from rediscovering the DNA of Anglican witness. Buzz words like "inclusiveness" and "polity" are being piled up to bury foundational truths about Anglicanism in America and on the Northern Plains. It is "spiritual genetic manipulation" and the experimenting and tinkering are killing the Anglican witness (at least TEC's version) in South Dakota and across North America.

Here's just one marker from the Spiritual DNA of American Anglicanism:

Preamble to the Diocesan Constitution and Canons

This diocese was founded for Christian witness, not to be an eccentric sect, detached from the rest of the Christian world.

This diocese was founded to express the church as presented in its Creeds: One (unified with other Christians, not off on some tangent), Holy (in the service of God, not human agendas), Catholic (seeking to be unified with Christians across time and place, not an isolated sect) and Apostolic (carrying on the teaching of God's Word and celebration of Christ's Sacraments as received over the centuries, not changing or misrepresenting them to accomodate passing fads).

This diocese was founded to propagate the faith - to spread Christianity and cultivate discipleship, not to give people esoteric reasons to dismiss the faith or customize it to their personal or factional wants.

This diocese was founded to worship God. Not, primarily, to carry political causes or advance factional agendas. The church is to lead people to intimacy with and celebration of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

This diocese was founded as a branch of the Anglican Communion. The current diocese's declaration of "a new American Revolution" (against global Christianity) and its substitution of secular (mainly gay and lesbian) agendas for the positions of worldwide Anglicanism are a direct rejection of the founding vision of the diocese - a departure from its own DNA and a precursor to church decline and death.

An Anglican witness on the Northern Plains needs to get back to the real, God-given DNA of the church. Our history - our God given DNA, not the TEC myth - can connect us to real hope for the future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

South Dakota: Moments in Eternity

David Beeman, 46, Hot Springs. Died in Alabaugh Canyon wildfire, July 8th.

SSG Robb Rolfing, 29, Sioux Falls. Killed in action, Baghdad, Iraq, June 29th.

Chester Allan Poage
, 19, Spearfish. Murdered, March 2000.

Elijah Page, 25, Texas. Executed in Sioux Falls (for Chester Poage’s murder), July 11th .

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne, Anglican Priest, 1623

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:28-29

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

South Dakota to Execute Murderer Today - Your Thoughts?

Elijah Page, who took part in the torture murder of a young Spearfish man in 2000, will be executed today.

We invite comments from Christians wrestling with the issue of capital punishment. We recognize that there are sincere, informed Christians on both sides of the capital punishment debate.

A few of our thoughts (offered not to close but to open discussion)...

  • Jesus did not see his church as the state. His first followers were "outsiders" when it came to political authority. Only later in history did Christianity get hold of the levers of political power, with mixed results. We must always be careful about articulating a "Christian political platform."
  • The New Testament assumes that the state will use deadly force against criminals. Romans 13 tells us that this is with God's permission.
  • But the New Testament does not "cheerlead" for executions. Following what God has revealed of His own personality, the Savior and his followers appeal to sinful people to repent. We don't think you would see Jesus at either demonstration outside the prison - He would not wave a "Capital punishment is murder!" placard nor would he be with the "Fry him!" crowd. His call is for the murderer to repent and find faith, because unrepentant murderers are among those who will suffer God's judgment.
  • In Elijah Page's case, he is indisputably guilty of a horrible crime. We can't see into his soul - we can only pray that his last days have led him to repentance and true faith in Jesus Christ, the only one who can wipe away such a stain from a human soul.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The More Things Change The More They Stay the Same

Bishop Gesner pointed out that...many (from the Lakota/Dakota reservations) who have moved into towns and cities have not been absorbed in the life of the existing church... He also pointed out that we need the strength of new members. We should appeal more to the plain people; we should not be guilty of a select clientele.
Convocation Highlights, Missionary District of South Dakota, April 20-22, 1956

Despite all the noise about "inclusion," the Episcopal Church remains in the hands of a very small, select sample of the general population. It's elitism seems to be an endemic and deadly problem.

Book Blog Reminder

Read all about it, get the book and read it, too! Looking forward to some summer spiritual growth across the plains (or wherever you might be.)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Latest from Fr. Chip on the Wildfires

"The Monday 1900 briefing advised us that the fire was not near containment, it had 'blown out' to the west and northwest, into rough canyon country and had grown to over 10000 acres. It is now visible on top of a ridge ajoining Highway 18, 5 miles west of Hot Springs proper and staging is in place to suppress it at the highway. If it jumps 18, it has a clear shot all the way to Custer County 6 miles to the north, which includes the land we have purchased for a home, boarding kennel, sustainability taining center and Franciscan retreat center."

A good friend named Ross Tucker is praying for us in Arizona. He writes:
We have 10 fires burning in AZ right now. We could use some prayers as well.

Heavenly Father, we ask for favorable weather and that you give success to those fighting the fires. We ask protection for life and property in all the affected places, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Keep Praying...and Reading

1) Fr. Chip Johnson is posting from the part of our state suffering with terrible wildfires. You can read his updates in the comments here. Please be praying for him and for all the people there. There has been at least one fatality and several injuries.

2) Do check out our Summer book blog here. An opportunity to grow in Christian learning and lifestyle, supporting one another with comments from wherever we are!

Not To Destroy, But to Save

The breakup of Anglican/Episcopal churches is wrenching the emotions of church people everywhere.

We are getting many reports of discussions turning into arguments, and arguments devolving into name calling, accusation and even profanity.

This morning we read Luke 9:46-56. Just after Jesus announced that he would be betrayed, his own disciples began to betray his teaching:

  • They started to argue about which of them would be most important.
  • They bullied an exorcist because he wasn't doing things their way.
  • They asked to destroy some people who would not welcome them.

Jesus first gave them a gentle correction, showing them a child and saying "the least among you shall be great."

Next, he gave them an order and an explanation, "Do not forbid the exorcist, for he who is not against us is on our side."

But when they asked to "call down fire" on others, Jesus responded with anger. He criticized their spiritual ignorance in not understanding his work: "The Son of Man did not come to destroy lives, but to save them."

May we all hear and obey Jesus Christ, and be spared the judgment of his words.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Announcing: Summer Book Blog!

We read it first at TitusOneNine (we have them in our "Useful Links" down to the left of the page) - the folks at Breakpoint (the Prison Fellowship site) posted summer reading recommendations and encouraged folks to read books and blog about 'em.

Here at Northern Plains Anglicans, we invite you to read
Traveling Light:
Releasing the Burdens
You Were Never Intended to Bear
by Max Lucado.

This is a great little book, based on the 23rd Psalm. It's usually available in Christian bookstores and in the religion section of secular chain stores as well. The link above takes you to Amazon.com.

Here's what Publisher's Weekly had to say about the book when it was released in 2001:
In Psalm 23, God counters the misconception that burden-bearing signals Christian maturity and admonishes followers to leave their loads at Christ's feet, as he is the only one truly equipped to handle the weight. Lucado dissects Psalm 23 while recounting tender tales of men and women who have overcome crushing circumstances with Christ's support. In keeping with Lucado's typical homespun style, humorous anecdotes often precede powerful punches of biblical truth. Rounding out this collection of essays is a study guide encapsulating each chapter's topic.

So, take this week to find a copy. Maybe get your spouse or some friends to read it with you. We will post our own comments and invite your responses on the following schedule:

Chapter 1 - Monday, July 16
Chapter 2 - Wednesday, July 18
Chapter 3 - Friday, July 19
Chapter 4 - Tuesday, July 24
Chapter 5 - Thursday, July 26
Chapter 6 - Saturday, July 28
Chapter 7 - Monday, July 30
Chapter 8 - Wednesday, August 1
Chapter 9 - Friday, August 3
Chapter 10 - Monday, August 6
Chapter 11 - Wednesday, August 8
Chapter 12 - Friday, August 10
Chapter 13 - Monday, August 13
Chapter 14 - Wednesday, August 15
Chapter 15 - Friday, August 17
Chapter 16 - Monday, August 20
Chapter 17 - Wednesday, August 22
Chapter 18 - Friday, August 24

Looking forward to growing together in Christ!

Wildfires around Hot Springs, SD - Please Pray

A major wildfire near Hot Springs has killed one person and injured at least two firefighters.

Please pray for those fighting the fire and for all in that beautiful part of the state. Pray for Fr. Chip Johnson and his Anglican congregation there as well.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

From the News: Orthodox Anglicans from Virginia Provide Support on SD Reservations

From time to time, we have encouraged prayer for the Lakota/Dakota reservations. Perhaps this is part of God's answer:

A Virginia newspaper reports that Anglicans from that state (from churches in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA), will mount missionary efforts to meet the spiritual and material needs on the reservations. (We spotted this on TitusOneNine)

According to Jim Oakes, vice-chair of the Anglican District of Virginia, "...our churches will remain as committed to fulfilling the Great Commission through service as they are to holding steadfast to orthodox Anglicanism and honoring the historic teachings of the church"... The Lakota Sioux in South Dakota are also being helped."They are very needy," said Oakes. "We will provide food, training, coats, encouragement and Bibles. In South Dakota it gets very cold during the winter months."

Please continue to pray for the reservations and for Anglican ministry in South Dakota. Some great insight is available through the prayers and reports of the Dakota's first missionary Bishop, William Hare, some of which are available here. Here is his Prayer for Indian Missions:

O Most Merciful God, Who hast promised that all those who dwell in the wilderness shall kneel before Thy Son, remember, we pray Thee, the Indian Tribes of our land and all those who have gone to them in Thy Name.

Guide and govern all those who are put in civil or military authority over them [please understand the historical setting - Reservations were at first under military control], that the people may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Set up and strengthen Thy Church among them, that they may all come to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.

Endue its Ministers with Heavenly love and wisdom, and make them ensamples to the flock.

Sanctify the people. Preserve their Marriages in peace and concord; nourish their infants; lead forward their youth; sustain their aged; comfort the weak-hearted; gather together the scattered; settle the roving; and knit them all together, working with their hands the thing that is good, in Thy Holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And lest we stereotype the Bishop as a tool of injustice, we need to hear the warnings in his First Annual Report as Missionary Bishop :

If any one wonders that the large sums of money, spent by the Government, have accomplished so little for the Indians, let him remember that for years these moneys were not used to elevate the Indians, but were devoured by those who should have been their guardians.

If he wonders that the Indians have learned so little of useful trades from the mechanics whom the Government has employed to live among them and teach them, let him consider that these mechanics have often been shrewd enough to see, and unprincipled enough to act upon, the fact that the less they taught the Indians the longer they would be dependent, and the longer their appointed teachers would retain their places.

If he wonders that the mere presence of civilization has not, long ere this, ameliorated the condition of the red man, let him remember that the van of civilization is its vilest offscourings; that its first representatives generally despise the Indians, and condescend to them in nothing but the gratification of inordinate appetites and desires; and that when civilization of a better type appears, it is too often so bent on its own progress, and so far from helpful or kindly, that its advance, like that of a railroad train at full speed, dashes in pieces those unlucky wanderers who happen to stand in its way, and leaves the others with only a more discouraging sense of the length of the road, and of the slowness with which they overcome it. In a town of Michigan, ten years ago, I saw half-wild, half-drunken Indians employed by white men to perform diabolical antics to attract men to liquor saloons. In Minnesota, ten years ago, I read in the daily papers the offer of the State of $250 for the scalp of any Indian, delivered at a designated office. In Dakota, to-day, I find, not to speak of other iniquities, the Indian woman, despised squaw though she is, made the victim of the brothel.

This state of things now stares good men in the face. It is high time, surely, for effort of another kind. The Government and the Church call upon them to stand up as champions of what is right. If ever the warning of the wise man be in season, it is now. 'If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to His works?'

Friday, July 6, 2007

Psalm 142 - A lament for the traditional Anglican?

Following up on yesterday's post, this morning's Psalm is a great prayer for those who are suffering under church corruption.

I CRIED unto the LORD with my voice; * yea, even unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
Father, Jesus tells us that you give the Holy Spirit to all who ask, seek and knock. Thank you for boldness to come to your throne for help.
I poured out my complaints before him, * and showed him of my trouble.
Father, the leadership of the Episcopal Church has stopped ears and a hardened heart. Thank you for listening when we cry.
When my spirit was in heaviness, thou knewest my path; * in the way wherein I walked, have they privily laid a snare for me.
Father, Episcopal Church leaders sue your people and are rewriting canon law to authorize more harassment. Thank you for protecting us along the way.
I looked also upon my right hand, * and saw there was no man that would know me.
Father, many of us have lost friends by standing for you. Thank you that your Son, Jesus, calls us his friends.
I had no place to flee unto, * and no man cared for my soul.
Father, many faithful people must go without the care of bishops, priests and deacons, and without the sacraments. Thank you for your Word and Spirit, always with us.
I cried unto thee, O LORD, and said, * Thou art my hope, and my portion in the land of the living.
Father, your people are losing church buildings, titles, positions and all kinds of familiar comforts. Thank you for leading many to rediscover the sufficiency of your love.
Consider my complaint; * for I am brought very low.
Father, the Episcopal Church batters those who hold Biblical faith. Thank you for lifting us up.
O deliver me from my persecutors; * for they are too strong for me.
Father, the Presiding Bishop, Executive Council, General Convention and their lawyers are spending millions of church dollars to hurt and scatter your people. Thank you for welcoming us when we flee to your mercy.
Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks unto thy Name; * which thing if thou wilt grant me, then shall the righteous resort unto my company.
Father, in this painful time, you are leading many out of the Episcopal Church. Thank you for faithful churches with open doors, and for gathering new congregations of your faithful people.

We pray to you in the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, who with you, Father, and with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Enemy Wants You Bound and Blind - JESUS Wants You Free and Healed.

It can be your parents or a spouse. It can be neighbors or "friends." It can be your job or an unscrupulous business you have to deal with. It can be the government or the church. It can be demons without and sin within.

All people are under attack from "the world, the flesh and the devil." Invisible forces, visible influences and personal flaws are all means by which Satan seeks to deprive you of the everlasting love, joy and abundance that Jesus offers. And your true Enemy, the devil, is smart enough to infiltrate even good things in your life and corrupt them to enslave you.

The morning readings in the first part of this week (1928 Book of Common Prayer) came from Judges 16, the saga of Samson, and Luke 8, reports of Jesus' ministry on earth. In
Samson, you might see a picture of your own life, compromised and sold out to things that destroy you. In Jesus, you can find faith, hope and love.

Samson stayed with Delilah even though she made three attempts to steal his power and hand him over to his enemies (verses 4-17). He played word games, told lies but eventually caved in to her constant pestering. He gave away the source of his power (the old translations say "He told her all his heart") and she finally handed him over to the enemy.

So, how about you? Are you saying, "Well, my husband is really nice - when he's not drunk"? Are you sitting in a church pew saying, "Well, that's the fifteenth consecutive sermon that denied what the Bible teaches - I'll say something if he does that just one more time..." ? Is your financial guy making big bucks while you get dinky returns, and you're saying, "I know I should change, but it is so much paperwork..."? Are you a prisoner? There's hope...

When Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee he ran into a demon possessed man (verses 26-37). All around were broken chains and shackles - signs of failed, repetetive attempts to restrain the demons over a long period of time.

Jesus ignored all that. He focused his power on casting out the demons. He was willing to cut his visit to that region short (the locals were so upset by the exorcism that they sent him back across the lake) in order to free the possessed man.

Jesus looks on you with that same priority. He wants you to be free. He doesn't care about all the forces around you that want things to stay the same. Talk to Jesus in prayer. Let him heal you and set you free.

In captivity, Samson was blinded and abused as a slave and a fool (verses 19-25). He was forced to grind the enemy's grain when they hungered and hauled out to be mocked when they partied.

It is never enough for "the world, the flesh and the devil" to have control - they have to torment you, too. An extreme but obvious example is meth addiction. The physical, emotional, spiritual and social degradation that take place are there for all to see. Are you letting someone or something humiliate you and take you down bit by bit? But there is One who can lift you up...

Jesus wasn't blind, but his human eyes did not see a chronically ill woman sneak up on him (verses 43-48). Frustrated by long efforts to be well, she summoned up the faith and strength to push through a needy crowd and touch the fringe of Jesus' clothing. And even though they weren't in eye-to-eye contact, divine power flowed from Jesus and made the woman well.

What's even more wonderful is that Jesus followed the healing with praise. He celebrated the woman for her faith - "Go in peace. Your faith has made you well." He demanded nothing of her but that she be free and well.

The contrast is striking - enemies are always tearing you down, but Jesus always seeks to lift you up. Not just to meet your immediate needs, but to show you who you are in his eyes, more powerful and wonderful than you can imagine. Talk to him in prayer. Try it in faith, like the woman, sneaking up even if you don't think he's looking at you. Let his power heal you and set you free.

Samson's way led to death (verses 28-30). Yeah, it was a great bit of melodramatic revenge, but like today's terrorists, Samson simply killed himself in order to take out some enemies.

You might be tempted that way. Sensing the need to be free of what ails and oppresses you, you might look for a rash solution. Many affairs, divorces and other "remedies" happen that way. The facts are, you end up hurting yourself along with the others. Are you so desperate that you are getting reckless, effectively cooperating with the enemy?

Jesus' way brings new life (verses 49-56). His word raised a young girl from her death bed, and restored her to fullness of life (he said, "Give her something to eat" - if you have teenagers you recognize that sign of life!) If you are feeling rash, like you "need a miracle," go to Jesus, the one with the power.

Don't seek your healing and freedom without seeking Jesus in the Holy Bible. There are all kinds of things out there that can take the edge off of your pain for awhile, but his word can set you free for new life. Read his word. Ask the Heavenly Father to give you the Holy Spirit, so that you can learn and understand what Jesus wants to say to you. Talk to Jesus in prayer. Let him heal you and set you free.

Lord Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. Heal us and set us free from the humiliating and lethal oppression of the world, the flesh and the devil. Let us hear your word of healing and freedom. We ask this in your Holy Name. Amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Independence Day

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Northern Plains Anglicans wishes all of you a safe, refreshing and free 4th of July!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Do the People in Your Church Know...

If you are still in an Episcopal Church (TEC), have your priest or any of the other leadership shared the following news items?
  • An Episcopal priest in Washington state declares, "I am a Muslim and a Christian", and her bishop "finds the interfaith possibilities exciting." Episcopal Church communicators are trying to hide this and other stories that show the abandonment of Christian faith by TEC leaders.
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is suing people who left TEC. These are folks who left their old church building and started a new Anglican ministry elsewhere - they didn't take any TEC property but TEC wants $200,000 from them. This is just one in a flood of such lawsuits across the country. In some cases, TEC is suing to keep a building, in others, TEC is suing lay people personally. Does your congregation know that its giving to the diocese helps fund the national church lawsuits against Christians? Have your priest, vestry and congregation discussed I Corinthians 6 ?
  • TEC's Diocese of Newark (NJ), featuring some of the worst membership declines in the denomination, chose in 1997 to close an historic church and sell off its property (even though the existing members wanted to keep the sanctuary and sell some other buildings instead). Of over 1/2 million dollars gained, the diocese spent between $150 - 200,000 to buy a house for a priest to lead LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) advocacy.

You'll notice that most of the story links and quotes are from mainstream media. These are not the inventions of right-wing fanatics, as TEC would have you believe. The leadership of TEC continues to mock every aspect of Biblical faith - and hide behind the smoke screen of "sympathy for the gay community." While people are arguing about that, TEC is denying basic Christian affirmations of who Jesus is, suing Christians who object, and taking from congregations to support diocesan bureaucrats.

In some things, TEC is just misguided. The Bible says that there can be mercy for mistakes made with good intention (see I Peter 4:8 ). But denying the Father, Son and Holy Spirit while remaining a priest has nothing to do with love - it is arrogance and unfaithfulness. To sue people who leave a church is... words almost fail us. Hypocrisy certainly applies - TEC, after all, markets itself as a church that is against "oppression" and is "tolerant of diversity."

In our opinion, evil does not seem too strong a word for TEC's current actions.