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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pray with hope


What does prayer mean to you?

Personally, I believe in the power of prayer.  I pray every day for healing, love, and forgiveness in our world.  However, my prayers aren’t always so noble…  At times, I have prayed for good grades, to find my keys, and for God to stop my roommate’s snoring… If there is a desire on my heart, I often bring it to God. J

Image result for pray
Over the years, I have seen God do some amazing things, big and small.  People have been healed and lives have been changed.  There are also plenty of times diseases don’t go away, people refuse to change, and roommates keep snoring!

In Luke 18, Jesus tells us of the power of prayer.  Prayer has an ability to change our lives in unexpected ways.  When I pray, I know that I may not get the answer that I am looking for.  In fact, there are weeks where it feels like nothing is going right… However, prayer has played a deeper role in my life.  Prayer allows me to listen.  Prayer helps me to open my heart and experience miracles that I wasn’t looking for originally.  Prayer allows me to live in this world with hope.  As you experience the ups and the downs of life, I hope that you can listen for God’s love through prayer.  May prayer kindle hope in your heart, and may your experience of God give you a deeper understanding of grace.

Blessings,


PB

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Faith


The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Luke 17:5

Have you ever asked for more faith?

Just last week, I found myself overwhelmed with a number of little things.  Personally, I don’t mind interruptions to my schedule if they mean I can help somebody.  However, I really dislike all the interruptions that prevent me from doing work or seeing people.  Last week I got stuck in several situations that had no good solution, but they took a LOT of time... In the end, I know I really do not have anything to complain about.  There are so many people who are dealing with so more than me.  However, even the smallest worries can be destructive if we allow it into our hearts.

Today Christ tells us to have faith.  Jesus says that even faith the size of a mustard seed can lead us out of the darkness.  When I reflect on this, I am reminded of how easy it is for the problems of this world to consume me.  Christ reminds me that love is greater than all fear.  There is no height or depth that can keep us from the love of Christ.  Today I hope we can all make a little room in our hearts for faith.  God has incredible love for us all.  Let’s let go of our fear, and let’s allow love to set us free.

Blessings!


PB

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Opening our eyes...


Are there people in your life who you are ignoring?

Are there people you want nothing to do with?

Are there people you can’t forgive?

Sometimes as I am driving around with my four year old son, I will hear him shout out, “Dad!  They need a bag!!”  He is referring to the Matthew Kits we have in our car.  These kits offer supplies to people who are experiencing homelessness.  My son always has his eyes open to look for people who might be in need, and he can’t wait to offer a little bit of love to the world.

Image result for open the eyes of my heartThere are days I can become callused to the needs of others around me.  It is easy to see the imperfections.  It is easy to think of reasons why I can’t help.  However, our scripture passage this week calls us to look at the world with love.  We are not called to fix every problem.  We are not called to heal every wound.  However, we can see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We can allow God’s Spirit to flow through us when we offer a genuine smile to our neighbor.

This week I hope I can be a little bit more like my son.  I want to look out at the world and open my eyes to love.  I hope and pray we can all live with this kind of faith…

Blessings!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Rediscovering Joy


A few weeks ago, my wife and I were talking about some of the trips we have taken.  Our oldest child has had a number of great experiences.  We have taken him camping all across the west, and we have carried him to the top mountains in Nevada, California, Arizona, and Colorado.  As much as we love all these trips, we really haven’t gone on any big adventures in the past year.  We were just trying to get a basic sleep schedule figured out with our second child, and it seemed absurd to throw all that out the window to spend the night together in a tent!

Crazy or not, we decided it was time for an outdoor experience.  We were tired of the heat, and we were craving the fresh mountain air.  My wife found a spot in Pine Valley, Utah, which really wasn’t far from us, but it felt like a different world!  We spent time hiking, sitting around a campfire, and splashing in the creek.  Both kids handled the nights well too.  We went through a pretty good thunderstorm our second night and the kids barely flinched!  Sure there were exhausting moments, but we grew so much as a family!  It was a blessing just to cherish the world around us, and it was a blessing to take time to cherish each other!
 
Today, in our scripture passage, Jesus is going to describe what it means to be lost and found.  There is joy in finding the lost.  There is also joy in rediscovering part of ourselves that we forgot we had.  To me, this is part of the reason I love camping trips.  I am always surrounded by my wonderful family, but sometimes I need an intentional trip to remind me of the joy that God has already blessed me with!  God is always seeking after us, blessing us, and sharing love with us.  I hope we can all take time to find ourselves and discover the blessings around us!

Peace!!


Brian Ward



Loving the Outdoors!!  :)

The view from our tent!






Thursday, September 5, 2019

Faith and a Canoe


When I was a teenager, I took a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.  I traveled with a group from my church, and the trip became one of the most memorable experiences in my faith journey.  Everything was awe inspiring.  We had almost perfect weather, and I remember enjoying even the longest portages.  (This is saying something, because I always portaged with a canoe over my head!!!)  I don’t even remember the mosquitoes being too awful!  I simply recall the amazing landscapes, the loon calls, the stars, and the amazing people around me.  In the end, I couldn’t wait to go back and share the experience with others!
 
It has been almost 20 years since that first canoe trip, and although I have been backpacking in many other places, I have never returned to the Boundary Waters.  However, last week my wife and I moved one step closer to such an adventure.  We took our four year old son on a short canoe trip from willow beach to the emerald caves on the Colorado River.  We went with some of the young adults from the church, and we figured it would be a great way to introduce our child to canoeing.  He loved splashing around in the water, but we discovered that it was pretty hard for him to trust that wobbly old canoe.  He really did quite well, but faith does not always come easy when a speed boat rushes by!  By the end, he was ready to be back on shore…  We will have to wait a few more years for that epic canoe trip with the family. J
 
Sometimes life, like a canoe trip, requires trust.  We don’t really know where God is leading us or how we are going to get through the waves.  However, we are called to be disciples.  God promises to lead us on an amazing journey if we let go, have faith, and follow.   

Do you believe God has wonderful plans in mind for you?  Do you believe you are called to something beautiful?  We are going to make mistakes on our journey.  We are going to mess up and fall in the lake at times, but each day is an opportunity to take another step with Christ.  Each day is another opportunity to walk in love toward something beautiful… 

Blessings!


Brian

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Searching for true joy


Do you like following the rules? 

I’m not aware of too many individuals who loved growing up with firm boundaries.  However, I know plenty of people, including myself, who benefited immensely from rules.  We may have hated them in the moment, but they had a real significance! 

A few days ago, I was responsible for putting my oldest son to bed.  We were out late at a park, and by the time we got home, it was already late.  We should have immediately started our evening routine, but I decided to let him have another snack… Then he wanted to play more… Then he wanted an extra story… I naively thought I could break the rules and just enjoy a fun evening.  However, it is probably unsurprising to learn that the night ended with a bit of chaos! J
 
I find the psychology of law and order to be fascinating.  Humans have a tendency to try and fight the law. However, people also need structure to thrive.  I know my kids need it, and I do too!  People have told me this before, but it is powerful to see firsthand. 

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus says he came to fulfill every letter of the law.  He clearly knew the law was important.  Nevertheless, he would break rules all the time.  He would heal on the Sabbath.  He touched the unclean.  He took a stand for God even when that meant execution…

I think we all need structure, but there are also seasons to ask questions.  There are seasons in life when law and order bring joy.  There are other times when these strict rules can suffocate us…  Today I hope you can find a place to reflect.  When is structure life giving?  When have the rules prevented you from seeing the greater joy of God’s Kingdom?  Jesus pointed out that we cannot always see the difference ourselves.  Usually, we have pretty bad judgment.  We reject the law when we need it the most.  We also will embrace the law when it is suffocating us.  Perhaps we all need an outside voice to hear us, reflect with us, and break our hearts of stone.  That is what the church is for.  I hope we can all be honest with who we are this week.  I hope we can feel accepted in Christ’s arms, and I hope we can be motivated to grow every day!

Blessings!


Brian

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cherish Love


Have you ever found yourself looking at old photographs?  I know it is kind of cliché to talk about how quickly time flies by, but I find it amazing to look back see where I have come from. 

My four year old son also loves to look at pictures.  He loves to see himself visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  He loves to look back at old camping trips, birthday parties, and he even takes time to remember the foster girl we took care of almost two years ago.  Life can bring its share of difficulties, but I believe it is important to cherish the moments too…  

Birthday Memories!
Last we my youngest child celebrated his first birthday.  Time really has flown by, and in so many ways it is all a blur!  The sleepless nights, the cleaning that never ends, and the relentless tornado of our lives moving us forward… it can all get pretty exhausting.  Today I am grateful for opportunities to look back.  I had a few extra moments with my son this morning to look at pictures, laugh, and tell stories.  I hope we can all find moments in the coming weeks to cherish the love that is among us.  I hope we can see that there is more than just chaos.  Let’s choose love this week!

Blessings!


PB

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bringing Love and Fire!

For as long as I can remember, Jesus has been an incredible source of comfort.  I grew up singing Jesus Loves Me, and to this day I believe Christ loves all the people of the world.  These are attributes that I have valued my entire life, and I cherish passing them on to my kids…

However, Jesus was also a fairly complex individual.  Certainly he always cared about love, grace, and forgiveness, but there was more to him… Take the words of Jesus from Luke 12:49:

“I came to hurl fire to the earth, and O’ how I wish it were already kindled.”
-Jesus

Yikes!  These words are part of our scripture passage this week, and they are not read in very many children’s books.  Nor are these words sung in any of the fun Jesus songs I know. J  This side of Jesus seems totally different from the one I grew up with, and I’m not always sure what to make of that.  I have heard people use these words to condemn others, but I don’t for a minute believe Jesus ever wanted to destroy another human’s life... 

Jesus lived everyday sharing love with fishermen, tax collectors, and the outcasts.  Jesus also spent time reaching out to the scribes, Pharisees, and powerful rulers at the time.  He wanted to bring the good news to everyone!  I think our scripture today is more about burning down the barriers that prevent us from seeing who God truly is. 

Almost every week I travel around the Las Vegas valley visiting all kinds of people, including those nearing the final stages of life.  This can be an exhausting task.  There is fear.  There is pain.  There is also a feeling of loss and grief that can be overwhelming.  However, I really believe these moments are sacred.  There is something special about declaring the promise of love among people who are all ready to listen.  There are so many distractions in our world.  There are so many moments when we give up on ourselves.  I believe Jesus wants us to burn all of these distractions away so that we can hear the real promise of Grace.  That is the beauty of these visits with people.  We are taking a moment to get rid of everything else that doesn’t matter and hear a real promise.  Today, that is my hope and prayer for all of you.  I pray that you could let go and hear a real promise of Grace. 

Blessings!


PB

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Have no fear...


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
-Luke 12:22-23

Don't let the worries win!
Seriously, how powerful is this scripture passage!  I have read the average American spends one hour and fifty minutes worrying every day.  Personally, I can become anxious over the most ridiculous things, like what is for dinner!  First we have to decide what we want.  Next, we have to see what we have.  Finally, we have to find time to cook, listen to kids who want something else, and eventually we wind up with quesadillas anyway.  In the end, it should be a simple task, but it can cause undo stress.

Jesus continues:

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
-Luke 12:24

In many ways, Jesus lived in a very different world from us.  The ancient people of Israel faced oppression and death on a regular basis.  However, there are still plenty of moments of judgement, hostility, and shame in our world.  Instead of celebrating God’s gifts, we can trample each other to celebrate ourselves. 

The final part of our scripture says this:

“Have no fear, little flock, for your Father eagerly desires to give you the kingdom.
-Luke 12:32

God isn’t trying to judge you or shame you.  God eagerly desires to give you the Kingdom.  You don’t have to earn it!  However, we can lose sight of the grace God provides if we let our worries drag us down.  God is desperately reaching out to shower you with love.  My hope and prayer would be that you could open your heart and receive it!

Peace,


Pastor Brian

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Seeking Love


My house is usually filled with quite a bit of energy.  Kids can be found singing, dancing, and jumping off of every piece of furniture possible. (I suppose the adults are often involved in these activities too! J) However, there are moments when my wife and I look at each other and realize things have gotten too quiet…  Kira typically senses this before I do, and earlier this morning she felt like she had to check on everything.  She found our 11 month old struggling to get into a cupboard we had left open.  When he saw her, he gave her a come and catch me grin, then he snorted and tried to waddle away from her while laughing his little laugh.  This is a kid who can’t talk, but he already loves searching for trouble! He even loves the thrill of the chase! J

He looks so innocent doesn't he?
I think all human beings are searching for something.  We are seekers.  Sometimes our search can be pretty innocent, and if we find ourselves on the wrong path, other people will be there to pick us up.  Other times our search can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behaviors.  We can find ourselves chasing after anything to fill some void that is within us.  Personally, I don’t believe there is anything in this world that will fill that hole except the love and grace of God. 

When our 11 month old tries to waddle away from us, it doesn’t take long for him to bump into a wall, fall into a laundry basket, or just get himself stuck somewhere.  Then we pick him up, hug him, and we laugh with him.  As much as he wants to get inside all the cupboards, there is nothing good for him in there.  He really just needs love!  I think adults need this reminder too.  In our scripture text this week, Jesus tells us to seek out love.  Christ has already brought grace to the world.  We just have to open our hearts and embrace it!

Blessings!


PB

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Christmas in July!


It is 110 degrees in Las Vegas, and it’s time to get your Christmas sweaters out!   This week we are celebrating Christmas in July at Community Lutheran!  It may seem a bit cheesy… (And it probably is!)  However, it has been fun to dust off some of the Christmas decorations, and I think there may be some real value in considering how this old story affects us today…

Listen to the words of the Angel:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people…
-Luke 2:10

This familiar line from Luke chapter 2 is forever etched on my heart.  I grew up in the church, and whenever this chapter of the Bible was read I felt a certain amount of joy and anticipation.  Even in the middle of July, just one line can stir something inside of me. 

It is also important to remember that the first Christmas arrived when people least expected it.  The Roman Empire controlled everything.  The people of Israel were oppressed and hope was fading.  The baby, the manager, and the shepherds all represented the bottom rung of society.  Yet that is exactly when hope arrived!

Today you may feel far from the magic of Christmas.  Sometimes we don’t feel like we have received any good news.  Just this week, I heard some very unexpected news of sickness and death.  There are days when it is hard for the Good News to overcome the bad.  However, the Christmas story isn’t just for a season.  It doesn’t last just one day.  It arrives every day, in the good and bad.  Today I hope you can take a little time and look for Christ.  I pray that you would be able to find a little hope in a world that dwells on the hopeless.  May you see that God is with you!

Merry Christmas!


Pastor Brian