Time for Graduation …

In this time of Graduations it seems appropriate to revisit something I wrote just 3 years ago in our season of Graduations …


Preparing for the Unknown …

It seems cliché but really where does time go?

It doesn’t seem that long ago that our son Riley was heading off to school for the first time.  Every year we would meet with the teachers to plan goals for the year.  I would make a passionate speech: “Your job is to get him ready for the next year of school—no more, no less.  Don’t make decisions about his future that are not yours to make. Keep him on course and on track this year.  It is not for you to decide what his future holds. It is your role to help him take steps in getting there!”  Sherry called it the “Papa Bear” speech.

This June our little boy graduates from New Castle High School. We plan to celebrate as a family on Sunday June 7, 2015 all the work that Riley has done to reach this day.  He has overcome obstacles, lived though constant change, and succeeded.

But now there are no more teacher meetings to attend … just a future that remains unknown.  And that is somewhat daunting because the work is not done, but rather it is just beginning … again.

Riley’s future still lies ahead, but the work that must now be done will be vastly different than the past years and in some ways it will remain the same.  What now? is the question we ask as the future as seemingly arrived.

I have come to realize that Riley’s journey is very reflective of our journey as United Methodists and as a church. We are on the cusp of great change.

Our General Conference will convene in one year in Portland, Oregon.  There is certain to be change that will result from that Conference.  Our own Indiana Annual Conference convenes this week to elect delegates for that conference and to potentially vote on proposals to send to General Conference.  And this too will be the next to last Annual Conference that our Bishop will preside over as he will retire in 2016.

One thing is certain for our Denomination and our Annual Conference — change is coming!  What change is hard to say and that is what makes it scary – the unknown.  The same could be said for our church – the unknown is scary.

Change is coming.  What exactly that change will be is unknown, but we are past the time we can simply look at the year ahead and say, “Get us to next year and that will be OK.”  The time has come for us, as a church and as United Methodists, to grasp the future amidst our reality and plan accordingly.  The world is not the same, nor will it remain as it is.  We must plan now to meet the future unafraid.

Amazing things are a part of our history. Amazing things are happening all around us in places we work together. Many more amazing things are waiting for us in the future.

Need proof of what can happen with a bit of planning and hard work?

Stop by the New Castle Fieldhouse and I will introduce you to my son, Riley Frieden, class of 2015.  The future has arrived and it looks great (and not as scary as we once thought).


It seems as much as we want to believe that things are changing – they are also very much the same.  Three years after this … we still are looking ahead to the future.  And the future is still unknown.  Riley is thriving and growing into a wonderful young man.  He will be taking part in our work internship this summer in hopes of finding a meaningful place of employment (that’s scary and very unknown).  And yet with all the unknowns … we have found peace and joy.  And in that peace and joy we also know that there is much work still ahead for all of us.  And BTW, we still couldn’t be more proud of the person that Riley has become!




Back Home Again …

I have always been a wand’rer 
Over land and sea 
Yet a moonbeam on the water 
Casts a spell o’er me 
A vision fair I see 
Again I seem to be 
Back home again in Indiana 
And it seems that I can see 
The gleaming candlelight still shining bright 
Thro’ the sycamores for me 
The new mown hay sends all its fragrance 
From fields I used to roam 
When I dream 
About the moonlight on the Wabash 
Then I long for my Indiana home 

Every Memorial Day weekend those words are sung at the start of the Indianapolis 500.
I grew up with them, but they took on greater meaning the first time I was living out of state. I watched the ceremonies at the start of the race from a place far away from home  and found myself in tears as the words were sung.

What was it about Indiana and home that had me longing to be there?

Now that I am back home in Indiana, I am still stirred by the words of the song.

What is it that I am still longing for?

My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too.  John 14: 2-3 CEB

Perhaps finding peace at home in this life and peace in the next life stirs my heart for all those who have yet to discover that which their heart longs for … How about you?
Waiting on the edge of your prodigal heart
Wanting for someone to save you from yourself
Out there on the edge dangling somewhere in the darkness
Doubting if anybody really cares
But when Love reached through the shadows
Whispering your name
And nothing will ever be the same again
For when Love calls you home
Forgiveness embraces a past you once owned
And all the mistakes that carried your name are gone‘Cuz that’s what happens when Love calls you home
Craddled in Your mercy that has no limit
I’ve finally found a place where I belong
Now I can’t imagine one moment without you in it
It’s hard to believe I tried to make it on my own
But You picked me up from the ruins of my broken life
And when every chance was spent
You gave me one more try

written by FOSTER, MICHAEL sung by Commissioned

On the way to Sunday: What do we know?

We live in a world filled with unclear messages. 

It would be good to gain some clarity when the message is unclear. 

The undisputed champion of muddled messages is Yogi Berra, Baseball Hall of Famer and former manager of the NY Yankees. Who at one point or another is quoted as having said: 

– It ain’t over ‘til its over
– Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.

– Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.

– You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.


Sometimes things that get said are rather confusing, aren’t they? But our confusion doesn’t always stem from what someone says.  Sometimes we become confused simply because of our busy schedules and inadequate communication.

Take for example the story of a photographer for a national magazine who was assigned to get photos of a great forest fire. Wanting to take some aerial pictures, he asked his home office to hire a plane. They made the arrangements & told him to go at once to a nearby airport, where the plane would be waiting for him. When he arrived at the airport, there was a plane warming up by the runway. He jumped in with his equipment and yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” The pilot swung the plane into the wind & they were soon in the air.

“Fly over the north side of the fire,” yelled the photographer, “and make 3 or 4 low level passes.”

“Why?” asked the pilot.

“Because I’m going to take pictures,” cried the photographer. “I’m a photographer and that’s we do!”

After a pause the pilot said, “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?”

We live in a time when our television screens are filled with competing political advertisements and disagreements about the economy and healthcare. Add to that competing and conflicting messages about deodorant, laundry detergent, and the best prices on groceries, we can be left to wonder – “Just what do we know for sure?”

In this day and age, sometimes it is difficult to know what is true and what is false. Surely there are some things we can count on, some things we can know for sure. Leads me to ask, when it comes to faith what do we know for sure?

We have grown up with theological ideas that fit well on the magnets on our refrigerators or the needlepoints hanging on our walls, but we have twisted the meanings to fit our lives.

Picture1.pngWhat if the bumper sticker faith we have chosen isn’t what God intended?

Join us on Sunday mornings for the next few weeks as we explore some common  misconceptions in our theology that we can blame on the magnets and can change by simply reworking the message we put on display in our lives.

See you Sunday …

Spreading Mulch is part of the work

I love the results that laying down new mulch provides. Everything looks brighter and more alive!

That said, I am done moving mulch.  While I very much appreciate that the church has mulch delivered to the parsonage, it all over the yard was more work than I really wanted on Family Fun Friday.

Not wanting to waste any moment as a teachable moment . . . I made an observation I wanted to share with you.

In gardening, mulch is a protective cover placed over the soil to retain moisture, reduce erosion, provide nutrients, and suppress weed growth and seed germination. at least that is the technical reason for mulching. The reality for most homeowners is that they like the look that adding new mulch creates in the flower beds and around the lawn.

I confess that while I didn’t like the work, I did enjoy the view of the garden afterwards. All the colors seemed brighter and everything seemed more alive and green.

I know the look will wear off. I also know that the mulch won’t keep all the weeds from coming back. There is still work to be done in order to keep everything looking good.

That is when it dawned on me …

Too often that is what we try to do with church.

We show up on Sunday, as if laying a little “mulch” on our lives will take care of everything. We go to church and leave feeling better about ourselves and our lives. BUT and here is the problem … Church alone won’t get it done.

It might look good to others.

It might even help you feel better.

But if you aren’t doing the daily work of prayer and study …

If you aren’t doing the daily work of living your faith …

You will have done nothing more than throw mulch on the problems of your life and in no time you will be right back to where you started.

So this week, when your done spreading the mulch continue the work you started.

Put on some work gloves.

Pull some weeds.

Water the flowers.

Trim the shrubs.

See you Sunday, I’ll be the one with the work gloves in my back pocket.

A Kodak Moment …

I love this picture of my wife.  I took it on a vacation to Cancun several years ago.  There is a look of joy on her face and it captures the fun and joy we had on that trip.  I have to confess that there has been a lot of heartache and moments of turmoil and suffering that have taken place since that photo was taken. It reminds me that part of the value of those “Kodak Moments” (remember those ads) is being able to capture those moments that we too soon forget.

The happiness of vacation quickly returns to the drudgery of work.

The joy of victory becomes defeat.

For me this past week was one that I would like to have a picture of …

Ministry opportunities abounded and their was joy and satisfaction with being a pastor.
I need a picture to remind of this past week because I know that days like that don’t come often enough.  Too often there is crisis to manage, complaints to deal with, drudgery to be dealt with, BUT not this past week.

It was a Kodak Moment I would like to keep.

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? John 12:26-28

We like to forget that Jesus said this right before he headed to the cross.  No wonder his heart was troubled.  He knew that in choosing to live a life serving and following Christ there would be days and weeks of pain, trial, and suffering.

So, take pictures of the days of joy and victory.

And when the days are tough, take them out and be reminder it is worth it.
The momentary joy of this life is only a hint at the joy to the come in the eternal kingdom of God.

On the way to Sunday … sharing


We are called to be salt and light in this world, but we struggle with the idea of sharing our faith with others.  And yet, if we truly love the church … if we truly love our Lord … wouldn’t it be natural for us to share it with others?

I’d like to share a portion of an e-mail received by a pastor:

About a week ago, one of them, I could tell something was on her mind. In the midst of having a slow night, I asked her how her family was doing. She started to share her troubles about her daughter leaving and that she was afraid. I shared my testimony about how my mom and I didn’t speak for two years, and how, throughout the past years, I found God and our relationship started to grow. She mentioned she wanted to go to church but hasn’t gone yet. I encouraged her and said that God changed me and cares about our relationships. She got my number and we talk more at work and I am leaving the door open to share more.

Also, that night, I was helping out in the kitchen, putting away dishes even though I didn’t have to. One of the dishwashers said: “You are a good worker, Misha. I always see you helping out people and you don’t have to.” I said to him: “I am working for the Lord.” He smiled and said, “All the other servers come back here and complain, but I can tell you are believing that and acting on that.” I said, “Have you ever heard this saying: ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength’?” He said, “No, where is that?” I told him it was in the Bible and that is why I am different and I did not used to be this way, sharing a little bit of my testimony.  He was excited and said, “I am looking forward to talking more about the faith with you.” That is how my night ended.

It’s difficult to be Jesus in the ordinary and in the mundane. But it’s in the trivial day-to-day stuff, at the office, at school, at the gym, on the job that people need to experience Jesus when they experience us. It’s in the trivial day-to-day stuff that we need to be salt and light.

Think about your daily routine.

Think about your coworkers. Your classmates.

Your neighbor. The person you carpool with.

The people you run into while you go about your day.

Know this—people will experience the kingdom from you in the normal, and in those moments the normal becomes extraordinary as people taste and see … from you … that the Lord is good.

What part of your life of faith are you sharing with others?


Social Media and Music … feeds the soul?

Recently this post keeps showing up in my Facebook Feed:

For ten days, post your 10 all-time favorite albums, one album cover per day. Post the ones that really made an impact on you and are still on your rotation list, even if only now and then. Post the cover; no need to explain! Then nominate a person a day to do the same …


I get it … music was really important to your angst of being young … so show me all the music of your youth that allowed you to survive.

You show me yours … and I’ll show you mine.

Alan Parsons Project, Barry Manilow, Super Tramp, Earth Wind and Fire, Leon Patillo, Susan Ashton, Steve Taylor, Rich Mullins, Lost Dogs (I know it’s a weird list)

Music has always been important to me and certain albums just take you back in time.

Music has fed my soul … inspired me … encouraged me … soothed me …

But here is the rub … everyone keeps posting albums from decades ago.

When did music (especially new music) stop influencing you? Moving you?

This past week, I got a new album from Andrew PetersonResurrection Letters Volume I

And I can’t stop listening to it.

It has fed my soul … inspired me … encouraged me … soothed me …

Song after song … new words … new melodies …

feeding my soul … inspiring me … encouraging me … soothing me …

And this not so young kid … middle aged adult … grandparent … is moved …

I love the old stuff … it reminds of where I have been …

but this new stuff … can capture my heart too!

I can’t think of an artist in the past twenty years that has the ability to capture my soul in the way that Andrew Peterson has in this project.

Andrew … thanks for the music … and the inspiration!