Archives For life

On Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, a car left the road outside of our home.

Both Amy and I were deep into our afternoon naps, she in our upstairs bedroom, and I in our guestroom downstairs. Our three youngest, Levi and Josh (both 13) and Ezra (age 8) huddled around the TV in our family room downstairs. It was a few minutes after 4PM. Quiet.

Then the car careened into our yard, continued to accelerate, and exploded through the wall and the TV in our family room, right on top of our sons. Like a missile. Like an explosion. Loud.

Miraculously, no one was hurt. Neither the boys nor the tiny momma who was driving. The angels were at work, and all we lost was stuff. We are so grateful to God.

In the week following, Amy took time to write out some of her thoughts. Here are her thoughts as they were posted on Facebook, unedited, in their entirety:

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Posted May 17, 2017

**I’m going to share a few “momma reflection” posts in the next week or so to help process what transpired with our fam this past Mother’s Day and give a glimpse into some unique aspects of this experience that lend some clearer understanding and insight for the sake of our extended family and friends. If that interests you, read on. Some moments were a bit intense – Parental heads up.

Bizarre Back-Story ~ We continue to hear that the most common reaction to the pics of the car through our wall this past Sunday was simply DISBELIEF. In order to help you grasp why our family was able to spring so quickly into action and not be paralyzed by our own disbelief, you need to know and some of you will recall, that Levi and I were some of the first “responders” on the scene at 5am on a Saturday last June when a car sped off the road directly in front of our home, took out a fire hydrant, hit the accelerator and ramped up into the air into our neighbor’s garage and front porch. Totaled the car both front and back and did major damage to the exterior of the home but didn’t break through the wall. TRAUMATIC for all of us as the drivers were injured but fled the scene ~ Just SO crazy loud and AWFUL to experience. Levi and I were the first to get our arms around the neighbor lady as she came out of her home STUNNED and in shock – shaken to the core. He ran and brought a chair from our yard for her. I sat on the ground and held her hand through the whole thing. It helped ME process and stay grounded to be able to hold tight to her. “Ministry mode.” The tangible hands and feet of Christ. She was that for me even as I was that for her. And Leeves was a rockstar. Calm, helpful, loving – And 12 years old.

Skip ahead to this Sunday.

I was napping upstairs when the car hit and shook our ENTIRE home, and the first boy to run and break through my door was Leeves very clearly stating “I’m okay – A car hit the house.” It was dark in the room and I did not notice he was bleeding ~ He had intentionally quickly rinsed in the bathroom so as not to alarm me, and then shut the door to the bathroom so I wouldn’t see the blood. WHOA. His calm, intentional processing and actions throughout this has me truly wondering what is in store for this young boy/man.

BECAUSE OF LAST JUNE the idea of a car hitting a house was UTTERLY normal, and that is tough to explain. We had literally “been there and done that” and the concept was PLAUSIBLE to us. What may have left others baffled and immobile did not have the same effect on particularly Levi, Ike, and me because it was SO crazy FAMILIAR. Our traumatic experience last summer set the stage for how we responded when OUR home was hit.

All that to say – KNOW that God can use moments in your life to better prepare you for things you cannot possibly foresee, both GOOD and bad. It may not be traumatic, but it may not be wanted, yes? You maybe would not have CHOSEN it. But if God allowed it, and you SURRENDER it, He will USE it. And THROUGH it His name will be glorified. And that ALONE is WORTH IT.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Genesis 50:20

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

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Posted May 18, 2017

Post 2 ~ Muh Boys

Many of you have expressed to us that your KIDS are concerned about our three youngest who were in the room at the time of the impact ~ Would love to offer some details here to put their minds at ease but also some others that you may or may not choose to share with young minds. To help you understand where Joshua and I are at ~ We didn’t have that CHOICE, and that is part of our grieving. The choice to protect young minds from the harshness of traumatic events. MANY of you have suffered worse with your kiddos, I know. All a part of our processing.

*JOSHUA (13) ~ So if you’ve looked at the pics you will note pretty quickly how alarmingly close to a chair the front of the car landed. Imagine the wheels still revving upon impact and spinning like mad. We believe the driver was in shock and still pushing on the accelerator for those first few moments. Our little man Josh is wired uniquely; processes very literally, and has a FULL BODY/full system response to fear, anger, surprise, strong emotion ~ His reactions are immediate, and they are LOUD. By God’s grace we have an INCREDIBLE team of professionals he sees regularly and 4 “safe” families from our church that he is able to stay with when needed. 2 of those families were on site with us after the crash, and we KNOW that made a difference for him just to have their presence here. MIRACLE: Josh felt he needed to use the bathroom on Sunday and stood from that chair at the exact instant the car was going to come through the wall – He SAW it out of the corner of his eye BECAUSE he was standing up at that second ~ As he was already slightly IN MOTION, Joshie went instantly into FLIGHT mode, and propelled himself around the chair and out of the room even as the bookshelf next to him came crashing down and debris was flying. He was MOVING and fully cognizant that it was a CAR and it was coming through the wall. He was MANIC in terror, but his speed down the hall to where Dad Josh was sleeping was seconds, and his repetitive screaming of EXACTLY what was happening was actually very beneficial throughout the house. Especially for those of us who were waking up to it. We calculate it was about 15 seconds before Dad Josh was actually out IN the living room because of Joshie’s clarity and speed. Joshie’s body and emotions took all evening to process the fear, BUT by the next morning, due to YOUR prayer coverage and God’s presence, his mind had quite literally MOVED ON. Minor cuts and a chunk of wall to the knee. And no desire to talk about it. 🙂 That’s our boy. For my MANY momma friends out there with kiddos with exceptional wiring, you KNOW. I know that you GET this. And I love you for it.

Z (8) ~ This part still grabs my heart and janks it. :-} Precious Z Babes thought a tornado had hit. Levi watched Z stare in horror and then vault over the arm of the couch and run – As Dad Josh came towards him he was yelling “IS THIS REAL?!! I don’t think this is real! Is this really HAPPENING?” Z was hitting his chest in confusion trying to wake himself up. Plaster dust and wall chunks in his hair, blood on his hands and arms from cuts, but no pain, and sweet confusion that somehow shields a young mind from some of the harsher realities in those initial moments. As 8 year old boys will do, he fixated on the blood as soon as he saw it. 😉 But again, minor injuries considering the carnage of debris he simply walked out of. He is doing beautifully at this point and DOES want to talk about it, of course. Little dude’s got some BIG angels, and he now knows it more than ever. Z was the first kiddo to make his way out to the road to ask why mom was holding this little girl. 🙂 “Z – This little gal is the driver of the car, hon, but she is TOTALLY OKAY, just scared like us.” He immediately smiled and reassured her that he was TOTALLY okay (in spite of the blood spatters which were a bit jolting gotta say), and then he wrapped himself around her waist. Ever had a Z hug? Then YOU KNOW. And she smiled through tears and held on. So did I.

Levi/Leeves B (13) ~ Of any of those in the room, Levi’s memories are most spiritual – Think that’s the best way to say it. Levi recalls the last line spoken in the movie they were watching and then an UTTER SILENCE descending on the room like he had never experienced. A complete stillness and NO noise. He thought he was dreaming – He could FEEL the silence. Immediately following was the loudest, worst noise he’s ever heard. Because the driver never hit the brakes and only the gas pedal there was no noise before impact. I’ve seen it in movies and I always JUMP, yes? Levi didn’t jump. He didn’t move. The room was smoky and filled with dust from the plaster ~ so dream like. He wasn’t sure he’d survived. And that hurts us inside somewhere. He said later, “Mom – I wasn’t afraid to die. I just didn’t want it to happen that way for Z. I wanted to be okay for Z.” He assessed that he wasn’t in pain, that Joshie was safe and running for Dad, and he was ALL ABOUT Z. He knew something hit his face and as he sat up blood was running, but NO pain. A good cut to the lip but completely superficial. Problem is – those REALLY bleed. Levi spent those first few minutes trying masterfully to conceal his bleeding but still inform us what had happened without causing alarm. His first words to EVERYONE were, “I’m totally okay! It’s OKAY.” He was SO intensely concerned about how everyone else was experiencing it. Levi’s moment of coming back to reality was seeing the paramedics RUNNING across the yard headed for the deck and realizing they were coming for them. Our boy grew up Sunday afternoon – Right in front of our eyes. He is older. And I believe those who knew us and were there on site likely FELT that too. We have zero doubt that Levi’s moment of stillness was angels descending into that room. You’ll NEVER convince us otherwise. It was holy ground, and every inch of that impact and every speck of glass and beam of wood that went flying was ORCHESTRATED by a Holy God and His ARMY. That car was HELD and our sons were SHIELDED. And whatever massive angel held that car declared, “This far and NO FURTHER.”

Uff, tears. Waves of mixed emotions, yes? What has the enemy thrown at YOU and your loved ones, my friend? Can you feel the angels descending into the center of your pain, panic, doubt, and fear? Spreading their wings to shield you? Declaring to the enemy by the power and authorization of our Sovereign God and Father, “This far and NO further.” We are HIS, friends. In HIS presence, we LIVE on holy ground.

“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”

II Chron 20: 6

“Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

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Posted May 21, 2017

Post 3 ~ My Man, My Marriage, and My Mission

Gonna wrap up my reflections on this past week and our Mother’s Day incident right here tonight, friends. This writing has been cathartic for me and prayerfully has brought value to you either as an encouragement to pray, an insight on those who encounter trauma, IGNITION in an area of your life where needed, or a deepening of faith. That’s not asking much, yes? 🙂 We have a BIG God, and I’m asking for enormous outcomes with a ripple effect. Life is short. Pray BIG.

As our hearts and minds begin to shift back into a sense of normalcy that your system craves when it is taken from you, there are residual, poignant moments that you realize are going to STICK and are purposed to have more of a long-term impact on who you are and how you live. MY MAN is going to get a better version of ME than he’s had in awhile. Can ya’ll handle that directness? While most assume my terror last Sunday was likely focused around my kiddos, it was actually a moment of utter FEAR that Josh Dad was gone that has most stuck with me deep in my heart and gut. I shared in my first post that our fam suffered a similar experience last spring when a car shot off the road and crashed into a neighbor’s porch and garage. Following that incident Josh and I had a sobering conversation where he had stated, “Aim, if that car had left the road where it did and shot off the OTHER direction it would have gone straight into our guestroom.” He was right. Skip forward to last Sunday when Josh was in a deep pastoral Sunday afternoon nap … in the guestroom and our boys began yelling, “A CAR HIT THE HOUSE and THERE’S BLOOD!!!”

As my mind was waking up to that out of a nap myself and I was running through the upstairs seeing or hearing ALL of my kiddos one at a time, I was doing a mental tally and Dad Josh was the missing piece. And it was sickening. My sense memory was saying if the car hit the house and the kids are seeing blood, it’s from the driver or Josh and of the two options Josh made more sense. And I couldn’t HEAR him. In reality he was talking downstairs extremely quietly in order to bring down Joshie and Z’s panic and assure them completely that they were SAFE. I was UTTERLY TORN. My head COULDN’T accept that he was hit, but my heart was grappling with that very real possibility, and for about 30 seconds my system began to believe it. I want my system to forget that feeling, and at the same time I KNOW that God is using it for the good of my marriage. Josh is a ridiculously GOOD man. 🙂 I needed a reminder of what kind of love I need to be returning to him. This one worked. Take from that what you will.

Why was I torn? My MISSION ~ If you’ve ever been on a ministry team with me, particularly altar ministry, you know my comfort zone – On the floor with the broken. Why? Because I BELONG there. That IS me, friends. And that is NOT church speak. It is also NOT to my credit. It is my weaknesses and not my strengths that God has used most often in my life for His glory. Not pretty. Not glorious or glamorous. Not fun. Sometimes really harsh. But it has conditioned me to ENTER IN. Sunday I found myself STUCK halfway down a flight of deck stairs, TORN between running towards a driver I KNEW was not okay and not knowing if my MAN was alive. Here is where Josh KNOWS ME. The SECOND he stepped out on that deck Josh made eye contact with me and said, “GO, We are ALL OKAY!” He KNOWS ME. He knows I will RUN to the broken. And I love him for that beyond what I can articulate. Hearing that caused me to run about 10 steps, see the car through the wall … and then I simply sat straight DOWN. Right on the ground. Cried for literally about 10 seconds. TOO MUCH. I remember a neighbor and friend asking if I was okay and then him running to turn OFF the car. At that point EVERYTHING IN ME went into URGENT MODE and I was shouting, “WHERE IS THE DRIVER?!!” Repeatedly. Can’t explain why other than I had a DESPERATE need for the driver to KNOW no one was killed.

Bottom Line here ~ I KNEW that someone had just had what was very likely the worst moment of their life, and I believed all the way through me that the compounded terror of having taken a life was NOT supposed to be carried a moment further by the driver. TRUTH SETS US FREE, amen?? ALL OF US. When someone pointed out that tiny little momma who had been driving, a friend spoke to me sincerely, “You NEED to be with YOUR kids.” I UNDERSTAND that fully. However, as I ran and grabbed onto that little gal whose name, btw, means LIGHT … I WAS with one of MY kids. ENTIRELY, COMPLETELY, UNDENIABLE. And that is for Josh and my Father and I to understand fully, even if we are alone in that understanding. I have BEEN THERE BEFORE, where His voice and Josh’s have been my only support on God’s specific calling, and I have learned to GO ANYWAYS. Others will need to see God’s hand in it OR NOT. HE DIRECTS MY STEPS, even when … nope, ESPECIALLY when they make no earthly sense.

As some of you have read I was able to speak more Spanish than I knew that I knew that day, and that is a humorous part of this for me. (**Likely the ONLY part that strikes me as humorous, btw. Please keep that in mind around our fam and others like us. The proximity to loss of life has far superseded our usual light-hearted humor concerning this specific incident. Heads up, our wealth of funny friends ~ We may get there eventually; not there yet.) I reached for EVERY Spanish word I knew and likely made up some I didn’t. 🙂 “This is MY home. I have 5 boys. We are ALL okay. YOU are more important than the house. God is GOOD. Be brave! (No one could give me the word for courage.) You are FORGIVEN.” God allowed me to KNOW what she needed to hear, and who am I to NOT speak it?? I LIVE by His grace over my stupid, over my proud, over my careless, over my reckless – WHO in the world would I be to WITHHOLD GRACE and SOUL LEVEL PEACE from ANYONE who so urgently needed it when I LIVE under His GRACE and FORGIVENESS daily?? When I held “L” together as she was shaken to her core, GOD held me simultaneously as I WAS shaken to my core. WHATEVER that spoke to the paramedics who commented on it, or those who struggled with it, or those who were changed by it including THIS momma right here ~ TO GOD BE THE GLORY! There was a spiritual battle fought on that roadside and OWNED by my Heavenly Father, friends. A battle for her soul, my character and emotions, her LIFE, my children … God OWNED that day and REIGNED in every moment. In my living room. In our guestroom. From the gaping hole in our home, through the deep tire tracks in our yard, all the way out to the roadside where two mommas were BOTH granted PEACE and FORGIVENESS.

What has been forgiven YOU by a God who doesn’t hold grudges? By a Father who gave up His Son to INTENTIONAL terror and injury beyond imagination in order that you could LIVE? Who has withheld condemnation when you deserved it? Anger when you provoked it? Retribution when you caused harm? Man, I’ve got a loooong list, friends, of those who have forgiven me, with my MAN and my Savior being right up at the top. I don’t deserve the grace I’ve been given. When I should have been discarded I’ve been LOVED. When God chooses YOU to gift LOVE and GRACE in extraordinary and unusual circumstances, consider it one of the greatest honors you’ll ever be given. And GIVE IT FREELY. Don’t do the normal thing. Don’t do the natural thing. Do the SUPERNATURAL, Christ inspired thing, and may He be radically GLORIFIED through us. God BLESS your journey.

“We love because He first loved us.” ~ I John 4:19

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are LIGHT 🙂 in the Lord. Walk as children of LIGHT.” ~ Eph. 5:8

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AFLBS_Concert-Choir_ 2017

I was practically a professional choir tour bus rider for most of the nineties.  Oh yes.  I know of which I speak.

I did the math.  I figure between 1987 and 1997, if you count all of the musical tours of varying lengths cross country I have endured in a bus of one kind or another, I came up with between 25 and 30 tours of duty.  Granted, it’s been a couple of decades… but some things are timeless.

Tomorrow at noon, as the Association Free Lutheran Bible School Choir steps aboard their mobile home away from home for the next two weeks, I thought that my vast experience may edify the uninitiated.  I bequeath unto you the following tasty bits of road-savvy wisdom…

TOP TEN THINGS YOU GOTTA KNOW about BIBLE SCHOOL CHOIR BUS TOURS

(10)  The FIRST (and I mean FIRST) thing that must be done is to storm the coach bus with plywood, duct tape, warning signs, and some sort of electrified deterrent, and barricade the bathroom shut.  That’s right.  Because what smells like Lysol and citrus fruit and Purell on day one will, by day three smell like… NOT Lysol and citrus fruit and Purell.  I think bus drivers have to stop every six hours or so by law anyway (ask Leon), so man up, Sally!  You can hold it for another four hours in the back of a bouncy bus.  Yes you can.  I believe in you.

(9)  BEWARE the RACHOS HUEVOS.  I’m just saying.  It seems out of my 25+ tours of duty, at least half of them rolled through Tejas or the Southwest somehow.  I never kept track of where we were…  I just got on the bus along with my fellow singing sheeple, and we seemed to get by OK.  But EVERY church in the south that served breakfast (and most of our host families) would greet us with a “G’mornin’ y’all!”and some variation on the following theme… “Since y’all are from Minnesohdah, we reckon you’d like to try one of our southern specialties from around these parts… RANCHOS HU-WAY-VOS! C’mon up now while the vittles is hot.”  OK… they probably didn’t say “vittles.”  But we DID get A LOT of Ranchos Huevos.  Let me just say that it is a cruel joke to serve 60 Norwegian teens a combination of scrambled eggs and spicy salsa and then make them ride together on one bus.

(8)  CARRY CONTRABAND SNACKS to your home stays.  You never know what’s coming.  At one church where my wife stayed with an elderly lady, the pastor actually slipped her $20 to sneak off and get pizza.  Sure enough, they were served warm milk, Saltines, and room temperature green beans in some sort of gelatinous substance… still in the shape of the can.  Protein bars, maybe an apple, some tortillas and a jar of peanut butter go a long way when facing gelatinous green beans.  Trust me on this.

(7)  If you have never before seen “The Sound of Music,” do NOT admit this on a bus full of musicians for any reason.  I’m not saying I was that guy, but if I HAD been that guy, I would have had to endure “The Sound of Music” DVD being played over the bus video system while 23 chicks watched me watch it.  AWKWARD.  I mean, if I had been that guy…

(6)  Twizzlers are the best bus snack food of all time.  I don’t even want to talk to you Red Vines people.  Have the elders at your home church anoint you with oil and pray for deliverance.  That’s all I’m saying.

(5)  Leon Ritter is the best Choir Bus Driver of all time.  His heritage with AFLBS goes back more than 30 years now.  When he is not driving the bus, a small cadre of attendants must follow him around with tasty beverages, fresh fruit snackery, and a willingness to burst into song or fresh dance moves for his entertainment.  Ooohh… better yet:  Can you guys rig up one of those cool chairs on poles so he can be carried around by the Bass section?  He’s just that awesome.

(4)  Romance.  Listen, I went on choir tour… and then I married Amy.  It went pretty much like that.  While I know the students of today are FAR more mature and mission-minded these days, don’t think I don’t know you don’t think I know you are already thinking about those long bus rides… just hours and hours of meaningful conversation over the steady hum of the diesel engine.  Oh yes.  Sharing headphones = good.  But ONE blanket PER PERSON.  Capiche?

(3)  By day 9, your resolve may lessen regarding use of the on-board bathroom.  Surely someone will be deep in giggly conversation after a gas station or lunch stop, board the bus with a small gaggle of like-wise giggling friends, only to realize with horror that they forgot to use the bathroom as the bus begins to pull away and onto the open road.  This is when your mettle will be tested.  For the sake of the greater good, do not do this thing you are considering.  Compassion is for the weak.  I’m sure that’s in 2 Thessalupians Chapter 4 somewhere.  You must find a team of heartless strong men (or altos) from within the group to block the bathroom door – willing to lock arms and take all comers.  If you are tempted to feel empathy for the weak of bladder, please refer to point #10 above.  You’ll thank me later.  And as an added bonus, it will be a real growth opportunity for the distressed and uncomfortable among you.  As I would have learned in the U.S. Marine Corp., had I ever been a Marine, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  It’s win-win.

(2)  Dudes… can I call you dudes?  Because this one is for you, Broseph.  While the lady folk may very well come on the bus in the morning smelling of cantaloupes or mountain breezes… whatever their perfectly acceptable lotion of choice from Bath and Body smells like… it will fade into the ether soon enough, leaving little more than a pleasant reminder of their friendship and general happy disposition lingering behind.  You, on the other hand, do no one any favors by liberally applying Drakkar Noir at 8:23 in the morning.  Do you know what the best smelling guy on the bus smells like in the morning?  Neither do I.  That’s how we want it.

(1)  When you sing – hearts will break, and people will be healed, and the Church will be reminded of how beautiful and awesome God is.  Heaven will visit people – and it will surprise them.  Never in your life will you get to experience the compound joy of making music this glorious and believing it so deeply in sync with the people alongside you.  THIS YOU HAVE TO KNOW.  These are some of the most wonderful days of your life.

God bless you guys.  I believe he is going to use you to grow His church and encourage the saints all the way from here to the Atlantic and back.  Give Leon a high-five from me.  We’ll see you when you get back home.

-Joshua Skogerboe (AFLBS Choir Alumn, 1990-92)

 

[ Article originally posted April 6, 2011 ]


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DM _ Sexual Identity - MAIN

If you are looking for the message I preached on Sunday, August 23, 2015 regarding sexual identity, morality, and marriage, I realize it might be a little hard to find. My sermons can be found under the TEACHING tab at the top of this page, but they do not automatically post to my homepage.

To find this message, CLICK HERE. Thanks for checking in.

focus

July 31, 2014 — 2 Comments

Molecule

Focus. When I write I realize that I need to work hard to get my head in the right space. I need to cut out the distractions, slow my mind down, clear the clutter. And it takes a while. There are so many competing streams of thought running through my brain, and so many outside distractions vying for my attention, that it takes discipline for me to focus my writing. To quiet myself so that I can communicate clearly the ONE THING I want to say. My goal as a communicator is to be more like a laser beam, and less like a fog lamp. Focus.

This is the principle of “irreducible minimums.” It is the process of reducing something down to its most elemental level, so that it can’t be reduced any more without being fundamentally changed into something else. In Chemistry class, we learned about molecules, for example, the smallest identifiable unit into which a pure substance can be divided and still retain the composition and chemical properties of that substance. In my high school Composition class, Mrs. O. always challenged us to “use fewer words.” Get to the point. Cut to the chase. Irreducible minimums.

The prophet-poet King David gave us a moment of clarity like that in Psalm 27. For a moment, in the midst of declaring his faith in God to carry him through a season of intense hardship and danger, David pulls back the curtain to reveal the central most focused desire of his heart.

“ONE THING I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD, and to seek him in his temple.” (27:4)

That’s focus. “In all of my heart, God, you alone enthrall me. When I clear away the clutter, and boil down my desire to its purest essence, it is YOU that I want.” David says, “If I lose everything else, but have communion with my Lord, that is enough. My soul is satisfied in Him alone.”

Paul makes a similar declaration in Philippians 3:8. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Do you see? This is Paul’s ONE THING. Knowing Jesus. Relationship with God trumps everything else.

So I examine my heart. I ask, “What is my ONE THING?”

I encourage you to spend some quiet moments with this question, too. And I can help you. It may be too easy to give the expected answer here. I mean, for those of us who go to church regularly for worship, isn’t it expected of us that our answer would be, “well, JESUS, of course. My ONE THING must be JESUS”? That’s too easy. I’m not asking you to put your finger on what you think the right answer should be. I’m asking you to consider what is actually TRUE.

Pleasure is like a gauge that measures value. So maybe instead of trying to simply name your irreducible minimum – your most important, most deeply seated desire – it may be easier to reflect on what it is that brings you the deepest pleasure. What do you enjoy most? What floods you with delight? Now we’re getting at it. The heart of your heart. Meditate on this. Clear away the distractions, and pray for clarity. All of us have our own ONE THING. Focus. What is yours?

 

Be honest with yourself. And with God.

 

David and Paul understood something about God that transformed them, emboldened them, and gave focus to their whole life. By the grace of God, they came to understand in the heart of their heart the truth of Psalm 16:11, which David wrote: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

How much joy do you want? How about a bottomless well of it? That’s fullness of joy. And how long do you want it to last? 75 years? 85? How about forever?

I know my ONE THING. I know that I know that I know. I want fullness of joy in the presence of God forever. I want to KNOW Jesus more and more, because in Him alone will all of my other desires be swallowed and satisfied and overpowered.

So today, find a quiet place to get alone with your thoughts and to talk with God. Ask yourself what brings you the greatest happiness. What is the ONE THING that you can’t imagine being without, even if it costs you every other desire and dream cluttering up your heart space?

I submit to you that David and Paul had it right. Until being at peace and in love with Jesus becomes your irreducible minimum, you will always feel the nagging tug of dissatisfaction. But when He becomes your ONE THING, you will find joyful rest for every longing of your heart.

And it will never end.


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Skogerboes Announcement May 2014

I’ve never experienced this before, but I am thrilled to see the way God has moved, charting the course for us, making the path straight.

People of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, our best days are ahead! We can’t wait to join you, do life with you, and serve God with you in Illinois! It is a humbling and joyful thing to say YES to a call when we know God is making His will known. And now that we have met you, we are all the more excited to get to know you better. God bless you, and we look forward to seeing what God is going to do next!  It will be amazing to bring our herd of boys and trucks full of “stuff” and begin the process of being HOME.

Go Cubs!

 

sprouts_2

Jesus said… “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

As I write this today I am thinking about three people I am very much looking forward to seeing again.

The first is my good friend and former Seminary professor, Pastor Fran Monseth. He was honestly a father figure in my life, and he loved me and all of our family like we were his own. Fran transferred residence from his earthly shell to the presence of the Lord one year ago today. One year. It’s still hard to believe I can’t call him for advice, can’t pray with him, can’t endure his dry jokes.

Second, I miss my friend Jeremy. He never really leaves my mind, to be honest. We worshipped together, made music together, discussed theology over eggs benedict, laughed and cried and prayed together through his cancer diagnosis and treatment, and through the bone marrow transplant that took his life. Jeremy knew my heart, and I knew his. Jeremy went home to Jesus in June of 2012. There are still days when the tears come, unexpected.

And third, I want to give my Grandma Arona a hug. Grandma went to heaven just this last October. I miss her cinnamon rolls with the peanut butter frosting, and her potato dumplings, and the way she would say “It’s probably not any good” after you had just taken thirds of whatever deliciousness she happened to be serving that evening. I miss hearing her vibrato, as she sang hymns to Jesus. After having lived the last several years of her life in a wheelchair following a stroke, Grandma walked into Jesus’ arms. She’s singing again, too.

We’re drawing near to EASTER now, and our eyes and thoughts are on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Church is preparing to celebrate. But today, as I remember Pastor Monseth, and Jeremy, and Grandma, the reality and power of the HOPE of RESURRECTION shakes me again. Because Jesus rose FIRST, you see – the firstfruits, He is called – we who know Him as our own carry the assurance with us that death is not an end. Death has lost its sting. Now it is a relocation, a joyful transfer to freedom. And we will rise again.

That’s why I can’t intone the Apostle’s Creed every week in our worship services with my heart and brain disengaged. In fact, the joyful reality of the certain resurrection we look forward to can probably be seen splashed on my face as we agree together what we believe in… “The holy Christian Church, the communion of the saints, the resurrection of the body…”

Really since Jeremy left us, this resurrection we look forward to has become so much more real for many of his loved ones. His friends here below were and are unusually close to him and to each other. We assume he’s working out a housing arrangement with the Lord whereby our mansions are all on the same cul-de-sac. Since Jeremy’s departure, thoughts of resurrection are always swirling through my theology, and it affects my everyday reality. Like Paul, I hang my everything on the hope of resurrection.

Paul said that he had given up everything else in life in order that he might live in relationship with Jesus. And to what end? “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

For me, this is tangible. Not just theological speculation. Keeping my eyes on the reality of resurrection in Jesus is changing my tastes. Jesus is making my heart new, and refashioning my mind. He puts my mouth out of taste for the poison of sin, and reminds me of the sweetness of knowing Him. Finding my delight in Him leads to LIFE, and a complete and soul-satisfying joy that lasts forever. (Psalm 16:11) And communion with Him. And ongoing relationship with Fran, and Jeremy, and Grandma again.

The Church will celebrate Easter in a few short weeks. Don’t allow your family traditions and familiar ceremony to inoculate you to the wonder of this moment. The resurrection is for YOU. That should astound you. It astounds me. And it means that those loved ones in Jesus who have gone on before us are together now with the Lord, and they will rise again. Death is not final. It’s just a relocation, a renewal, a rebirthing process. Jesus said that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die.

Do you believe this?

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“the resurrection of the body” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme Court

According to his son, Timothy Phelps, the long-time senior pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church died last night, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Westboro Baptist has long been identified with the worst kind of hatred – that which is wrapped in self-righteousness in the name of God. To get a better grasp on the depth of Fred Phelps venomous life’s work, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s bio page.

The ripples of his death announcement are stirring conversation. There is already talk of people picketing his funeral. Eye for an eye. Hate for hate.

Others are suggesting that we let it lie. Don’t respond. Don’t feed the monster. Westboro Baptist has long-thrived on the media-circus energy generated by its outrageous behavior and over-the-top messages, designed to fuel controversy and hopefully secure relevance in the national consciousness, albeit relevance being known as the most vocal and provocative of hateful bigots. So some are saying, “Stop talking about Fred Phelps. Let him drift into obscurity where he belongs.”

The Christian community is responding, too.

“Fred doesn’t represent me…”

Honestly, I think even most of those who are virulently anti-Christian recognize the gulf between the hateful message of Fred Phelps and the average Christian church-attender today. Sadly, because Westboro claims to speak for God, there are some who equate his rantings with the conservative (read “fundamentalist”) Christian right-wing. But let’s be honest… To the vast majority of the world, Fred Phelps and his family are really viewed as more of a cult than as any kind of legitimate representation of Jesus or His followers. This is a case that doesn’t need to be made.

But in a way, he does…

So how should we respond, Church? What do we say? Around the water coolers, at Starbucks, at home with our friends?

Humility.

I suggest we respond with great humility. Here are my take-aways:

(1) Resist the urge to add fuel to the fire. Many are going to revel in this. Voices from outside the church, and many from within. Many will take this opportunity to bash the most dis-likable of men with a sense of self-righteous indignation that is fueled by the unity of their coworkers and neighbors. “Good riddance,” many will say. But the Church has an opportunity here to show some Spirit-led restraint. This is another opportunity to be light in the dark. Self-righteousness is darkness. Pride is the root of every sin. We would do better to let the bandwagon roll on by.

(2) Resist the urge to cover sin with cliches and band-aids. I saw one suggestion that perhaps it would be appropriate to picket the Fred Phelps funeral after all, to make a point that love is stronger than hate. Except instead of responding in kind, carry signs that read “God loves you” or “God forgives you.” While I recognize that this is an attempt to bring a positive message to light, we must acknowledge the truth that it is ultimately up to the sovereign Holy One to judge. Fred Phelps has mishandled the very name (and reputation) of the Almighty. Judgement is His. Further, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Ultimately, we don’t know what went on in the heart of Fred Phelps in his final days and hours. God does. I understand the temptation to make loving proclamations here, to try to counter all the years of hatred spewed out in God’s name. But to me, they don’t smell right. We are called to speak the truth in love, not proclaim forgiveness to the unrepentant.Yet, maybe Fred came to know the grace of God in a real way in his last days. God alone knows the heart. We would do better to be quiet. God will judge.

(3) Recognize the degree to which we are Fred Phelps. All men are haters. All men are rebellious enemies of God. Ever since Adam, we’ve been corrupted by sin. In Fred, that corruption seemed to pour out like venom from a firehose. In some of us, it is more insidious. But sin corrupts, and we’re all going to die one day because of it, unless Jesus comes back first. The message of the cross is that Jesus’ took all that venom and drank it down on our behalf. Forgiveness is found in him only. To those who believe, He gives the right to become children of God. But the venom of sin still corrupts. So we in the Church, who look to Jesus for our freedom, we still sin – just like the rest of the world. We still carry that venom around in our old nature. The difference is, if we believe, we are forgiven. Sinners still. But forgiven. That should be a sobering, humbling reality, not a soap-box from which to look down upon the more visibly corrupted. Literally, but for the grace of God, there go I. We would do better to examine ourselves, and lean into the mercy of God again.

Today the world will begin a dialogue about the death of one of the most disliked, disrespected people in recent American history. The temptation to join the cacophony will be strong. Church, we would be wise to walk humbly, be quiet, and do some honest self assessment today.

 

Is there a better way for the people of God to respond?

 

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“fred phelps sr. dies :: how do we respond?’ by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

 

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This is a very unique time of life. Nine weeks from now I will graduate from the Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary. If God wills it, I will soon be serving a congregation as a pastor, but today we don’t know where. Nine weeks. These seasons in the in-between are formative. They stir deep thoughts, and honest prayers in us. I’m examining what kind of pastor I hope to be. How God has wired me to serve Him.

These are my top five pastor non-negotiables:

1. I will delight in God. My ONE THING.

No matter what, I must fufill this purpose. God made me to delight in Him, to find my joy and my peace in Him. To honor Him in all things. To seek refuge in Him. To lean into His strength. To claim sonship in Him through the blood of Jesus, shed for me. And to fear Him. And love Him. Whether or not I ever pastor a church, I will delight in God. David wrote about this in Psalm 27:4. His ONE THING was close communion with God, and he wanted it forever. If I don’t live in close communion with Him, I can’t pastor. Ministry is overflow. Ministry is love, and I can’t generate that by sheer willpower. I won’t fake it. So this is first.

2. I will be the husband and dad my family needs.

Amy and the boys need me to be a husband and a dad. I will honor them, lead them well, and protect our relationships above all others. With God’s help, I will live in the tension between the needs of ministry and the needs of family with peace and freedom and joy. If my family is a wreck, my heart will be, too. So this is second.

3. I will speak the truth in love.

Preaching and teaching the Word of God. All of it. That is the life-blood of the Church. The hard words that convict, and the jaw-dropping promise of mercy and forgiveness and FREEDOM found in Jesus alone. I believe the Bible is absolutely TRUE, and inspired by God, and it lives and speaks to hearts right now, today. It is the voice of God, and it saves souls. My primary ministry priority in any congregation will be speaking the truth of God’s Word in the depth of love that He has for all who hear it. And He is shaping me; I am loving this call to PREACH and teach now more than EVER. So this is third.

4. I will love people.

God loves people. When Jesus spoke about the most important commandments, he said LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE. This is the boiled-down, nut-shell, laser-beam focal point of our life’s calling as followers of Jesus. So whether or not I am ever a pastor, God asks me (and equips me) to love people. Especially then, as a pastor. How awesome is this? My job is to LOVE people. And especially those who are hard to love. And those who need it most. I can’t believe I get to do this with my life. So this is fourth.

5. I will build relationships. For years I have said “Ministry is RELATIONSHIP.” Disciple-making means proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, so that those who believe it will enter into restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus. That’s first. But we are also called to be relationship-builders with people. Both within the local church (doing life together!) and within our communities, familes, circles of influence. Anywhere we bump into PEOPLE, we are relationship-builders. Because real relationship opens doors. It reflects the love of God, and it allows for the kind of honest conversations that lead to sharing our God-story. As a pastor, I will teach, lead, and model the high priority of intentional relationships. So this is fifth.

There are a thousand ways I am willing to be flexible as a pastor someday. Someday soon, we hope! But these five I go to the mat for. These five are priority. My first things.

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THIS POST IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT of changes to my blog and a new direction for the season ahead. Here’s the plan:

(1) SERMONS  —  I now will be posting all of my recent messages under the “Teaching” tab above. You can always find my latest audio and video teaching and preaching content from now on at < jskogerboe.com/sermons >

(2) WRITING  —  I miss it. I am ready to reengage my blog again, as time permits and as inspiration and the Spirit so move. Thank to my friends for the encouragement.

(3) BLOG LAYOUT  —  In order to de-clutter my written thoughts from my spoken ones, I am going to experiment here with keeping them somewhat separate from one another. Therefore, my preaching posts won’t show up on my homepage. Only my blog posts will be found there. Likewise, under the “Teaching” tab (or at jskogerboe.com/sermons) you will only find my stream of recent messages.

It is a work in progress. Take a look around, kick the tires. I love hearing from you friends. Let’s reconnect this community.

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a generous king

August 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

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August 11, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 12:22-34

We live under the self-delusion that we are in control. We shoulder the weight of our own protection, provision, status, wealth, health, and direction. Jesus is talking to his disciples about money, and priorities – and about their Father in heaven. “No,” he says, “you are not in control.” And we must realize… this is amazingly GOOD NEWS.

>> This message is found in Luke12:22-34. You can read it online here.

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

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“a generous king” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.