Thursday, November 15, 2018

It's that season!

Earlier this week, my son and I were in the front yard talking with the neighbors.  After a while, they asked if we wanted to come inside and take a look at their Christmas decorations.  Now personally, I can hardly believe it’s November, and I really hadn’t thought about decorations.  However, when we walked into their home, it felt like Christmas!  Their house made me feel like I was walking into a winter wonderland! 

After we walked away, my little boy couldn’t stop asking if we could put up our decorations… He was enlivened by the whole experience… jumping up and down, talking a mile a minute, and running ahead to tell mommy about everything. 

Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is really an incredible thing.  There are far too many times in my life when I think I’ve seen everything.  It is wonderful to experience a different perspective of joy.  Compared to our neighbors, our decorations are pretty mangled.  The tree, the wreaths, and all the lights had been shoved into odd corners of the garage, but they still filled us with joy!  Everyday our child lights up in a new way, and I am so thankful I get to experience it!

I think we all need to take time to experience the world through the eyes of a child.  I hope you can all take a little time this week to really cherish the season and the meaning behind it all.  I pray you could all see the blessings before you!



Thursday, November 8, 2018

Remembering Veteran's Day

Ten years ago I spent the summer as an Intern Chaplin in the Veterans Hospital in Minneapolis MN.  I was only there for a short period of time, but I look back on those moments as some of my most transformative in my entire life.  It was the first time that I sat with a family as their loved one passed away.  It was the first time I saw people broken by pain... whether that pain was physical, mental, or spiritual.  It was also one of the first times that individuals looked to me as a spiritual leader.  There were people who shared some of their deepest vulnerabilities and moments of loss with me.  In so many ways, I was not ready for all of this, but I felt blessed that God was working anyway.

I learned a lot from each one of those veterans.  In fact, I’m sure I grew much more from them than the other way around.  They were generous, patient, and I received an incredible amount of love that still affects me today. 

Every year, as we remember Veteran’s Day, I think about my time at the VA.  My entire experience there was powerful, but more than anything else, I keep coming back to all the conversations I was blessed to have.  I was called to be present through joys and sorrows, and there was really something sacred about that.  This week, I am so grateful for the service of every veteran, and I hope and pray we can all spend some time cherishing the freedom, the people, and the love we have in our lives.



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hope and Halloween

What do you love about the holidays?  Is it the people, the atmosphere, the energy, the food? What really draws you in?  Personally, I don’t think there is just one thing.  It’s a combination.  When people come together in hope, wonderful things happen.  The holidays offer a magnificent opportunity to see this. 

However, I am guilty of becoming kind of judgmental about holidays like Halloween.  You see, I am one of those crazy parents who spends way too much time worrying if my kid is eating too much candy.  (I am probably giving my child a complex by trying to ration everything… and I know I’m giving myself one!)  I also think I’m just kind of a scaredy cat, and I don’t like creepy nature of the all costumes and decorations!  J

The Super heroes in our house!
Whatever the reason, I was putting a lot of stress into how my 3 year old was going to celebrate Halloween.  In the end, I decided if people were coming together in hope, I didn’t want to stand in the way of that.  It’s fun to dress up, laugh, and eat too much candy!  However, my favorite part of the night was watching my 3 year old get super excited when trick or treaters came to our door.  He couldn’t wait to hand out candy! (He even wanted to give them the candy from his own bucket!)  We literally had to hold him back from walking all the way down the street to give away candy!  It was a beautiful moment to share… (Next year the candy complex will probably have set in and he will hoard it all, but this year was fun!) We found some really special time together as a family, and I was reminded of all the surprising ways that hope can show up.

Happy Halloween everybody!

I pray that all of you can find hope this season!  May you know God’s Blessings and receive God’s Grace!



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fear or Love?

How much does fear control you? 

This can be an easy question to dismiss if everything is going well, but it can be a very dark question if we are really honest with ourselves.  

There is a psychological condition sometimes called “Steve Blass Disease.”  This disorder is named after a baseball player who was physically at the top of his game.  He had just been named an all-star and everything seemed to be going great… until his mind started playing tricks on him.  He started throwing wild pitches, and he eventually lost the ability to play.  It fascinated people, because there was nothing materially wrong with him.  He simply started to doubt that he could pitch anymore… and his doubt became reality.  Over the years, a number of different people, coming from very different walks of life, have been documented with something very similar.  Personally, I know I am victim to this fear as well… I will trip myself up on the simplest tasks and the more I think about it, the more I seem to fall apart. 

Watching someone with talent self-destruct is painful to watch....
This is a pitcher named Rick Ankiel in the year 2000

Fear can be our worst enemy.  It obsesses over our imperfections and failures, and it is blind to the opportunities around us.  In our scripture passage today, Jesus will encounter a man whose fear is controlling him.  He is worrying about everything he needs to do, and he misses out on Christ’s lesson that the Kingdom of God has already been freely given to us.

How many times do our fears, worries, and doubts prevent us from witnessing God’s blessings?  Today, my prayer for all of us is to purposefully let go of fear and take a moment to breathe in the blessings around us.  Some days this might be easy, other days this may be very hard.  However, Christ is offering the Kingdom of God every day.  I hope we can open our eyes and see it!



Friday, October 5, 2018


Who are the most important people in your life?  What makes these people important?  What makes a relationship valuable?  What makes a relationship destructive?

These are all questions that our scripture text is dealing with this week.  The Bible reminds us that our bonds with other people are difficult, and it takes a considerable amount of work to allow them to flourish…

I remember several years ago, when I had a different job, I had a boss that I really struggled with.  If I said one thing, it seemed like he would always take the opposite point of view.  I remember I had a co-worker who couldn’t take it.  She quit within the first month.  It was a stressful time.  I decided I did not want to leave the job, and although the problems never went away, I did notice that something was happening.  My boss did have real gifts and knowledge that he was willing to pass along… (If I was willing to open my heart to it.)  There were also times I royally messed up, and to my astonishment, he offered me a significant amount of grace.  He allowed me to be honest, and for that I’m grateful.  It wasn’t perfect, but I learned a lot from this man, and I learned a lot about who I was from these moments.  I am so thankful I didn’t give up when it was hard.  Instead, it was the struggle that made this relationship so valuable…

I wonder if there are any relationships you have that came effortlessly.  In my life, effort brings meaning.  I hope we all can consider how our relationships are causing us to grow.  Where are they leading you?  What are they teaching you about sacrifice?  How are they offering you new life?



Thursday, September 27, 2018

Leaving Space for God...

Last weekend my family had an opportunity to travel with the church’s youth group to Camp Lutherwood in Utah.  This camp is located right in between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  It was the perfect time to get a glimpse of the fall colors and escape from the heat of Las Vegas!

Ready for a weekend of adventure!
There is something mysterious about these trips that I always look forward too.  Something changes within the youth, my family, and in even in me…  Just taking a moment to breathe, hike through the canyons, and watch the stars come out at night changes the way I look at the world.

Our theme for the retreat was based on a scripture passage from Mark chapter 8.  Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” It struck me on this trip that many of us never really take time to think about this question.  We may have doubt when we look at Jesus, or we may recast Christ to be whatever we want him to be.  In the end, most of us miss the true meaning of the love and forgiveness that Jesus really stood for.  Without understanding God’s love, I don’t think any of us can really understand who we truly are either. 

On this particular trip I heard kids talk about all the terrible names they had been given.  It’s easy to let these names latch on to us… and sometimes they can even destroy us.  However, I believe our job in the church is to share a different story.  We are to offer the truth of God’s Grace.  I am thankful for the opportunity this trip offered to share a new story, in spite of the evil around us…

I think we all need to be intentional about remembering that God made us all in God’s image.  I hope and pray that all of you would leave a little space to remember your true identity.  May you know you are loved, and may you feel God’s peace!


Fish weren't really biting, but certainly a fun day out!

Lutherwood is a pretty amazing place!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Everything Changes, and it's a Blessing!

So… a lot has happened since the last time I posted! 

Welcome to the world Isaac! 

Isaac Conyers Ward came into the world on August 17, 2018.  Both mother and child are fine, and since he is our second child, the older brother is adapting as well as can be expected…

My wife and I have spent months preparing for this moment, but personally I still feel a little dazed!  Sure I can paint a room, buy diapers, and set up about 100 different baby rockers… but in the end, I feel like I’m just winging it! 

It is impossible to prepare for all the sleeping issues, the eating issues, and the general mess that has come...  However, I was able to take a couple of weeks to just be with my family.  We had time to adjust, learn, and just soak in our blessings together.  Personally, I needed this time to really appreciate what had happened!  In many ways, I think we all need to leave space every day to feel God’s presence, whether we have kids or not.  Each day we can (and should!J) prepare to the best of our abilities, but life is really about the curve balls we aren’t expecting.  In our scripture passage this week, we are going to look at these unexpected moments and ask how we should respond.  Do we close ourselves off out of fear, or do we take a leap of faith trusting that something greater will be there to embrace us in our time of need?

Today, I hope you can take a leap of faith.  I pray you would know that there is a greater love that will never let you go.  I hope you can take time to appreciate this love.  May the unexpected bumps in the road be a blessing and adventure for you instead of a curse!  May you feel love this week!

Just for fun, here are a couple more pics...


Not sure how he feels about all his new outfits,
but I think he looks great!



Thursday, August 2, 2018

Believing in your calling...

Looking like a pastor... :)

In the Lutheran church, there is a tradition of pastors wearing clerical collars and shirts.  In my current setting we don’t wear these all that often, and I am certainly okay with that.  I often find this uniform to be way too formal, and when I first became a pastor I really didn’t want to wear it at all.  However, over time I noticed the clerical uniform could open a few new opportunities for ministry.  People would walk up to me on the street and ask me to pray.  I was invited into several hospital rooms to sit with families I didn’t know.  These people were looking for a pastor.  In these moments, the uniform told people I was ready to serve, and that helped me to grow as a pastor.  I think there was a part of me that didn’t want to take myself seriously.  I didn’t believe I had any real gifts worthy of such a formal outfit.  However, when I was drawn into those moments, I realized God was doing something.  God was using me.  In the book of Ephesians it says:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
-Ephesians 2:10

We may convince ourselves that we have nothing to offer, but this verse asks us to have faith that God uses us in any situation.  This verse says ALL people, not just pastors, are called to do amazing things… Now, it does not say that we have the power to bring the exact kind of change that we may be searching for, but we do have the promise that God is working in powerful ways…

Today, I hope you can all recognize what God is doing in your life.  I hope that you can believe God is calling you to act and live in the world around you!

Peace and Blessings!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

What really matters...

My family is roughly 6 weeks away from welcoming a new baby into our home.  It’s pretty exciting, but it’s also a pretty crazy!  I’ve been busy painting rooms, putting the crib back together, and digging out the old infant toys and clothes we have been storing in the garage.  Next, we’ve had to figure out everything we still have to buy:  car seats, double running strollers, all the powders and creams that seem to be necessary for babies… It’s amazing how such a tiny child needs so much! J

I know there is always going to something else I could prepare for.  However, I believe the one thing we need to offer is love.  Everything we buy is going to fall short if it’s not given in love… (Now diaper creams and burp rags will certainly have their value, but I believe love is behind it all…) Caring for infants is such a wild experience, because our love is not based on who the child is…  I don’t know what this child will look like, act like, or what his personality will be.  I don’t get to control who this child is, but I believe he is created perfectly with his own gifts, and I have the opportunity to love him and allow him to thrive.

Our scripture passage today states:

You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household
-Ephesians 2:19

Personally, I believe this passage says that God has chosen each of us.  We aren’t called to divide ourselves or think of reasons to remain distant from others.  We are called to love and to offer opportunities for all people to thrive.  Today I hope you can all share your gifts without fear, and I hope you can see those around you for the blessings they are!



Thursday, May 17, 2018

Moved by the Spirit

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
-John 14:26

Do you believe the Holy Spirit is calling you? 

A few years ago, I was the youth director at a small church in Minneapolis, MN.  I absolutely loved that community, but the job was a bit of a stretch for me in many ways.  I did not grow up with gang violence, drug abuse, or poverty, but many of the kids I worked with dealt with these problems every day.  Personally, I felt called by the Spirit to reach out.  I wanted to be a savior.  I wanted to break the cycle of oppression these kids lived in.  I had my plans, but the Spirit always seemed to be blowing the other way!  I remember driving to crisis situations and getting laughed at.  There were times I tried to break up fights, but everyone got mad at me.  I tried to help people run errands, but I often wound up picking up strangers and telling them they could not smoke weed in my car. I spent hours on the road, but I’m not sure I ever really helped anyone get to their destination… J
Life was pretty chaotic, but I know God’s Spirit was working!  In spite of all my naiveté, I built some incredible relationships during my time there.  I never became a savior… I couldn’t stop the violence, illness, or foreclosures, but I had plenty of time to talk, laugh, share meals, and love some people who needed love.  In the end, the Spirit didn’t have to use my plans to do some truly amazing things. 

Today, I hope you can think about what the Spirit is up to in your life.  Remember, God does amazing things, but God may be calling you in small ways too.  Even the smallest acts of love can bless the world in powerful ways!



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Living with Faith

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
-Matthew 6:27

What do you worry about?  In this passage, Jesus proclaimed that fear and anxiety could destroy lives.  We are called to be a people of faith.  However, faith is not escapism.  Faith should not cause us to bury our heads in the sand or run away from our problems.  My issue is that I tend to worry about the things I cannot change, and I want to avoid the problems I could actually do something about. 

For example, I am less than four months away from welcoming a new child into my family.  This is certainly something to be excited about, but it is also something that requires a lot of preparation.  When my wife mentions everything we have to buy and do to get ready, I am often tempted to say, “Don’t worry!  This will all work itself out!”  However, I am slowly learning that that is not always a helpful response… J  On the other hand, I will spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about failures or mistakes I’ve made years ago!  This does not turn out to be a great combination!

Jesus told his early followers they had the power to change the world.  We all have gifts worth sharing, and there is no amount of fear or failure that should cause us to doubt this.  At times, this means letting go of the things we have no control over.  Other times, I have to recognize that I have gifts that should be used!  Today, I pray that you would have the faith that carries you though every obstacle!



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Faith to get Through

“I don’t know how we’re ever going to get through this…”

That was a comment I made to my wife earlier this week.  We were in the middle of the second week of our child refusing to sleep or even stay in his room at night.  I felt like we had tried everything, and the problem was only getting worse.  He suddenly hated going to bed, and he was waking up all through the night.

Now, I know this is just part of being a parent.  However, I love to convince myself that I should be control.  I want to be the person who has all the answers, but I know nobody really has this whole thing figured out.  Personally, I think that is why we all need faith.  We are all going run into moments that we can’t control.  Now, in the grand scheme of things, this sleeping issue is not a big deal.  Other people are certainly dealing with much worse.  However, this one little issue was driving me nuts!

The Bible tells us that we will have setbacks…  We will have failures, and there will be times we make a mess of things.  However, we are told to keep our eyes on the bigger picture.  We can have faith that God is in control.  If I lose sight of that, I know even smallest of things have this ability to creep under my skin and affect me in major ways.

Now, in the case of my 3 year old, everything turned out fine.  Although we had a week or two of chaos, our son did eventually start sleeping again.  I’m not sure if my efforts along the way were more helpful or harmful, but it did pass.  At least for now…  New issues are going to come along, and in the future, the solution may not come as easily.  There will come a time when I can’t just pick my child up and put him in his room when he does something I don’t like… J However, we are told to believe God is creating something beautiful, and we are each a part of that creation.  Failure and chaos will always be a part of life, but when that passes, God’s Love will remain.  Nothing can separate us from God, and there is nothing we can do to stop the power of love.

Is there anything leaving you feeling out of control today?  Is there anything making you feel overwhelmed?  Whatever these things are, big or small, they can have a huge impact on our happiness and the way we interact with others.  Today, I hope you can believe God is making something beautiful in your life.  We don’t always see this exactly when we want to, but your life is special!  God is working in you!


Pastor Brian

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Life

Growing up, I loved springtime.  Not only was it a welcome the end to the dead of winter.  It was also the season of new life.  The trees and flowers blossomed, and the fields and gardens began to offer a new promise of hope.  Today, living in Las Vegas, spring does not have the same meaning.  Out here, spring marks the beginning of brutally hot season that scorches anything I plant in the ground.  There are certainly some plants that can survive, but I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to them… as they blossom, my house is filled with uncontrolled sneezing!   

I never had much success gardening. (Even when I wasn’t living in Las Vegas, I managed to kill just about every plant I came across!)  However, I did have a grandmother who could grow just about anything.  I remember being inspired when I saw this woman in her garden.  She would be surrounded by bugs, dirt, heat and humidity, and she loved it!  She found a joy in the soil that transformed the world around her.

My grandmother passed away a couple weeks ago, and I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on her life.  She was a woman who had a gift for growing flowers, but more than that she had the gift of love.  Just as she was inexplicably able to make a flower bloom, she also offered a love that miraculously grew beyond all boundaries.  I will always remember her hugs, laughter, and the sweaters that she was forever knitting and giving away.  Those small gestures had an everlasting impact.

I hope you all can believe that your love has the ability to move mountains.  You do not need to be strong or powerful to change the world.  (You certainly don’t have to be very tall.  I think I passed my grandma’s height when I was in the fourth grade…J) Anyone can share love!  Today, I hope we can all take a little time to cultivate the love we have.  I pray we would also believe in and nurture the love that God has given to each us!