Thursday, January 23, 2020

Spiritual Growth


Have you ever thought about your Spiritual Growth?

What was your life like ten years ago?  How about twenty years ago?  Fifty years ago?  What kind of person were you at that time?  If you had to live those days again, would you make the same choices?  What have you learned?  How have you grown? 

Personally, I was just finishing my seminary studies ten years ago, and I had no idea where I would be heading.  I can think of so many mistakes that I was about to make.  I experienced success and failure as well as joy and sorrow.  Today, I have grown into a very different person, and the greatest lessons I’ve learned were not taught in school.  I’ve had to learn these lessons in the moments of vulnerability, failure, and sometimes from the tragedies.
Image result for making all things new 
This week we are talking about spiritual growth at Community Lutheran, and I know there are times I don’t want to go through the real pain of growth… I want to jump straight to the “happily ever after” part.  However, our scriptures teach us that each day we live is an opportunity to grow a little more, even if there is some pain involved... 

We are not the same people we once were, and we will not be the same people a year from now.  We will face joy and pain, but God goes with us through it all.  Whatever happens, I hope we can experience vulnerability and failure and know that it is okay.  We are not supposed to be perfect.  We are to try and live with open hearts so that our spirit can learn to soar.

Blessings,


Brian

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Searching for Love and Justice

Do you see hate in the world?  Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied or harassed for the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or any host of other factors?

In the book of Genesis, it says that the inclination of every human heart is evil, and I can see the real damage that hatred is doing in our world today.  Now this doesn’t mean that people are evil.  In fact, the Bible says all people are created good, and we always have the capacity to see the good in others.  However, I think we are inclined to put too much emphasis on our fear and shame, and that can cause us to find evil in what God created to be good. 

Earlier this week, my wife and I were having a conversation about the state of the world.  We were talking about injustice, violence, and other problems that seemed almost too big to handle. 

Interestingly, our four year old son heard us talking, and I guess he noticed a sense of hopelessness in our voices.  Now, I don’t think he really understood everything, but he noticed that we were overwhelmed.  So in the midst of our conversation, he stopped us to say, “Mommy!  Daddy!  Wait!  When I become an astronaut, I can use my spaceship and fly you guys into space and you won’t have to worry about any of this stuff!”

I have to admit that comment warmed my heart and it certainly made me smile… However, I am also reminded that as Christians we are a part of the world, and as generous as my son’s offer was, I can’t just run away when things get tough… (Or fly off in a spaceship as the case may be...J)  God does not see this world as hopeless!  God sees all of us as his hands and feet, and we are called to be the voice of hope! 

Jesus came to this world to bring about real change, and Christ believed we would do greater things than he ever did.  This doesn’t mean we have to take on the world single handedly.  In the book of Micah chapter 6 verse 8, it says:

The Lord has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

God is with us in the simple acts of love and justice that we can all do.  Today, as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I hope we can all believe that we have a role to play in sharing God’s love and justice with the world.  God believes in each of us and God never ceases to call us into action. 

Blessings!


Brian Ward

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A season of light


What does Epiphany mean to you?

I don’t use the word Epiphany too much in my everyday conversations, but is important to the church.  The Epiphany of our Lord is a day on the church calendar that is dedicated to the idea that God is revealed in real ways to each and every one of us.  God breaks into our lives, and we all have an opportunity to open our hearts to the life changing work of Christ.

Personally, I have been taking some time to think about my own Epiphanies.  I remember the first summer I worked at a Christian Camp in Colorado.  That mountain top experience of God forever changed my life.  I met a community of people who welcomed me and my gifts, and I will always look back on those days with awe and wonder.  I had a chance to share so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets with others.  I had countless opportunities to share and receive grace, and I saw Christ come alive.

I think it is important to continue to go out of our way to seek these moments of awe and wonder.  Last week I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip with the youth group.  We traveled to Mexico to build a home for a young couple and their one year old son.  Before the trip, I was honestly feeling a little exhausted.  We had just finished Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, and I had to pack up and be ready to leave at 5:30am on December 26th.  We ran into snow and road closures along the way, and part of me was feeling a little burnt out.  However, when we arrived in Mexico, we had this wonderful time with the family.  Although my Spanish is more than a little rusty, we could still share so much joy together.  It reminded me of Jesus leading his disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, where the non-Jewish people lived.  Jesus wanted to take his disciples outside of their comfort zone to experience God in new ways. 

I have come to look forward to mission trips.  They open my heart in ways that is hard to explain, but they also show me the power of the Holy Spirit.  Today, I pray for hearts to be opened.  I hope we can all look at the world in a new way and see that God’s Light is shining on us!

Blessings!


Brian Ward

Working together to build a house...


The family and their new home


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Are you embracing God's gifts?


What are you feeling in this season of Advent?

Are you experiencing joy?
Do you feel sense of loss?
Are you overwhelmed?
Feeling Anxious?
Ambivalent?
Hopeful?

There are all kinds of emotions that can fill this season.  Personally, I know I don’t always take time to consider what I am feeling.  I just move from one moment to the next.  I go to church, I worry about shopping, I try to put the kids to bed, and on the story goes. 

One thing that makes the story of Mary and Joseph unique is their ability to contemplate God’s presence in their lives.  Mary particularly didn’t just let life happen to her.  The Bible says she took time to ponder each moment in her heart.  Her world was filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, and she took time to experience these things… I believe God is still present in our world, but we don’t always take the time to notice.

A couple weeks ago, I came down with a case of laryngitis.   My voice is a pretty important part of my job, so it was frustrating situation.  I found myself wishing things were different.  Instead of the blessings, I focused on my limitations. 

It took me a while, but I realized that some things are beyond my control.  I can dwell on the negative, or I can live by faith in what God is doing.  I am blessed to have two little boys.  These guys are always a handful, but they can show me what it’s like to live in the moment.  They value me whether I am talking or not.  Life is a gift… I’m glad I can be present to cherish it.

Today I hope we can all open our hearts to God’s Love.  I hope we can all take the time to ponder the good news that God is with us.  May you all believe that you are loved and surrounded by grace!

Blessings!


Brian Ward

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Faith for the journey


What does faith look like in your life? 
 
I have a one year old child who has a wild amount of faith.  This little boy isn’t afraid to take off up the stairs, go around corners, or chase after bugs.  My wife and I kind of got used to our older child who did not wander away so easily.  However, if we take our eyes off of the little guy for a second, he will disappear on us!  Nevertheless, he does have limits.  He will give high fives to strangers, but eventually he will start looking for his family.  If he doesn’t see somebody he knows right away, he will start to lose it.  All his confidence disappears, and he becomes pretty inconsolable.

Ready to take a leap of faith
I think every human being is in a different place in their faith walk with God.  There are times we are confident, and there are other times we are pretty inconsolable.  I have seen people who were unafraid in the face of death, and I have seen other people are just trying to find enough faith to get through the day.  We are all different, and we all have a different story. 

Today, I wonder where you are at in your faith journey.  Are you confidently moving forward?  Do you believe that God is with you?  Or are you in a place of uncertainty?  There are times we all need a reset and fall back into the arms of love.  Today I hope you can open your heart to love.  I hope God’s love can give you a little bit of faith to take the next step forward in your life!

Blessings!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Take time to love


Earlier this morning I dropped my wife off at the airport.  She was heading to Colorado to celebrate her mother’s 70th birthday.  I am so thankful that she has the opportunity to be there!  Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the trip together.  Kira took the baby with her, and I stayed home with our oldest son.  As amazing as it would be for all of us to celebrate together, this trip allows Kira to be present with her mom.  They were able to make a little space to just be mother and daughter.  They can shop, laugh, and chase the baby around… J

I also have an opportunity to spend some time with my oldest son.  This might seem strange, because I get to see this little guy every day.  However, when my wife is out of town, I become the person who goes grocery shopping with him.  I take him to the park.  I cook him dinner.  Normally, Kira winds up doing a ton of these activities while I am at work or running other errands.  It is kind of nice to spend some one on one time with him.  I am always surprised how much fun I have when we work on art projects together, wrestle like crazy people, or listening to baby shark on repeat!

In the month of November, we celebrate the season of Thanksgiving.  Today, I am so thankful for all my family, friends, and relatives.  I am grateful for my church and the people who have surrounded me with love.  I hope you can all spend a little extra time today cherishing the people around you.  I hope you can all find a little extra space to really open your heart to the people you love.

Blessings!!


Pastor Brian

This is a pic from a couple weeks ago on Halloween. 
Cherishing the people I love! :) 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Reformation!


This is an exciting time for ministry at Community Lutheran Church.  There are so many wonderful things happening with the arrival of our new Senior Pastor, Ben Bergren.  In the meantime, there has been plenty of other activity going on.  We have said hello and goodbye to our Transition Senior Pastor, Tom Anderson.  Personally, I have officiated nine different funerals and three weddings in the last two months.  There have been a number of hospital visits, appointments, and meetings.  Then to top it all off my two little boys got sick last week, just as my parents arrived from Minnesota…

Life goes by at a blur!  If we aren’t careful, we can miss out on some really sacred moments.  I have heard that we need five positive or affirming complements to counter just one negative comment.  Human beings are just wired to listen to the bad and doubt the good.  I know this can be true for me.  I will focus in on one little moment where I feel like I failed or neglected to help someone.  However, the past few days have been fairly encouraging for me.  My parents still wanted to visit, and they were an IMMENSE help with the sick kids!  (I just hope they don’t get sick in the days to come!!!)  I also received several very gracious letters from people who I helped over the last few weeks.  These small moments reminded me that God’s Spirit is always working!

This week we are celebrating the Reformation of the church.  The Reformation is the good news that God’s Spirit is always working for good in this world.  Sometimes we can get lost in the dark valleys, but there are always new options and new opportunities to move forward.  This week we are celebrating the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.  I hope you can believe that God is creating something good within you!!

Blessings!


Brian