The scrambled egg incident…

It was a few months ago when I was awoken by my five-year old whispering.  “Daddy, I’m hungry.  I want some scrambled eggs.”  To which I replied, “O.K. little man, I’ll get up and make you scrambled eggs.”  Without any hesitation he responded, “No, I want to make the eggs.”

I was surprised, to say the least.  However, perhaps I shouldn’t have been.  He and his younger brother have been assisting me in the kitchen for years now.  They know where many of our common ingredients and utensils are.  They have helped me add ingredients to bowls (including cracking eggs).  They have helped me mix ingredients.  They have assisted by putting oil in pans and pouring mixtures in to be cooked.  They have learned how to carefully stir,  flip and remove foods with the use of a spatula.  In retrospect, I had gradually taught them all of the parts required to prepare a few dishes on the stove top all by themselves.  Now, on this otherwise quite normal morning, my five-year old woke up and thought to himself, “I know how to make scrambled eggs all by myself.”  And that was exactly what he wanted to do. With just a bit of supervision and encouragement along the way.

I followed him downstairs and watched as he went to get the step stool and turn on the stove.  “This one?”  he asked as he reached for the knob to turn on the burner.  “Yes, that one.”  I responded.  “What number?  Here?”  he asked.  “Number 6.  Yes, that’s good.”  I answered.  He proceeded to take out the eggs and a bowl.  He added a little salt and water into the eggs and mixed them.  He poured some olive oil in the pan and then added the eggs.  He gently mixed the eggs around in the pan and flipped them over.  Finally,he got out a plate, put it next to the stove and scooped the eggs onto his plate.  I took a little taste of the eggs my little chef had prepared.  They were good.  He thought so too.

While this is not the first life skill our children have learned, this skill seems so…grown up.  In fact I know many adults who could not make scrambled eggs nearly as well as my little man.  Am I proud of him? Absolutely!  But as I think about the fact that he has been so well schooled in this skill, I find myself asking what other abilities I am instilling.  I am pretty sure that I have said this before, but I think it is worth saying again.  Our children are our apprentices in life.  They may not end up doing what we do for a living, but they are learning how to live through our raising of them.  Through our presence and our absence, through our intentional and unintentional influence, they are being shaped into their futures.  They will follow our lead or they will wander from the lack thereof.

My prayer is that just as my eldest has begun to learn the art of cookery, our children will grow in their capacity to practice their trust in God each day.   If the scrambled egg incident has taught me anything it is that a great way to lead them to this goal is to invite them to observe and then participate with me as I follow Jesus.   I can let them repeat after me as I pray and then ask them to offer their prayers.  I can invite them along as I help others and then encourage them to do the same in their own lives.  When they need to be forgiven I can share with them how much I love them and how much God loves them, and what He did for them in Christ, and then encourage them to do the same when others need forgiveness.  By inviting them to observe and then join me in trusting God, I may find myself waking up one day to one of our kids saying, “Daddy, I have a problem.  I don’t know how to solve it.  Will you come pray with me?”

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is tough! And you might think it should be easier with those you love and live with every day, but those are sometimes the hardest people to forgive.  It’s all those familiar little and not so little ways they fail us every day, time and time again, that start to wear on us.  Sometimes it is those little things that we find the hardest to let go of.  But forgiveness is a huge part of what is means to be a follower of Christ.

Many people see church going folk as hypocrites; as holier than thou types.  And unfortunately there are many of those among our ranks.  However, we are not supposed to be that way.  We are supposed to be humble…caring…forgiving.  Our faith is all about God’s desire and capacity to forgive us and to reverse the effects of all that we have screwed up in the world and our lives.  Just as we trust in God’s desire and ability to forgive us – a fact that is made clear in the ministry of Jesus – followers of Jesus are to extend that same forgiveness to those who have hurt them.  We are called to forgive from the heart all who have hurt us.  Can it be said anymore plainly than it is in the prayer Jesus taught, “Forgive  us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” 

Remember Jesus took the penalty of your sins, of your parents’ sins, of your spouse’s sins, of your children’s sins, of your ex best friends sins, of your sworn enemies sins.  He took it all.  That is the message we have been given to proclaim and live out in the world.  And that means not simply sitting back and watching the people who have hurt us squirm, and suffer as God passes judgment on them.  Forgiving from the heart is about letting them know they have forgiveness.  Not just from God but from you. Put simply, forgiveness is about giving undeserved pardon in response to wrongs done and right actions not being done.  That’s it.  It is undeserved.  It cannot be earned.  It cannot be paid back.  It is free and clear. 

I forgive you…They are easy words to say.  Say them with me.  “I forgive you…” but it is not nearly as easy to do sometimes.  Maybe you have been hurt in ways you can’t even bring yourself to say.  Maybe it was by somebody close to you.  A family member or friend.  Someone you thought you could trust.  Or maybe you have been hurt by someone you hardly even know but what they did hurt so much that you just cannot find it in your heart to forgive them. 

I know what that feels like.  I remember a time in my life when I found myself praying to God night after night that He would help me forgive someone who deep down inside I hated – someone who I wanted to see suffer for the heartache they cause me and others I cared about.   Hear what I am saying.  Forgiving is not easy.  But God’s Word is clear.  As His people – people who know what it is to be forgiven – we are called to forgive others their sins just as we have been forgiven. 

Over the past few months I have seen and heard many, many…too many heart breaking stories of betrayal, abandonment, lies and deception.  People’s lives are being destroyed as people victimize each other.  But what is worse in my eyes than the fact that people are hurting each other, is the fact that’s people seem so unwilling to freely offer forgiveness to others.  Grudges are held for weeks and months and even years and lifetimes.  Judgment is passed, forgiveness withheld and emotional wounds don’t even have the chance to leave scars.  They just stay on the surface of our emotions as festering open sores, waiting to be bumped up against and infected.  In stead of working for reconciliation we assign blame and seek vengeance.  We want pay back. 

Forgiveness is not forgiveness if it has to be earned by the one who has sinned.  Forgiveness is only forgiveness if it is given out of love.  Forgiveness is only forgiveness when payment of the sin is taken on by someone other than the sinner.  This is what Jesus meant when He said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He meant forgive them and pray that they turn from their hurtful ways so that they might receive the forgiveness being freely offered to them.

Forgiveness does not mean that we make light of sin.  It doesn’t mean that sin is “ok.”  Forgiveness never means that you accept the sin.  Sin is always unacceptable.  Forgiveness does not turn a blind eye to the sin someone is committing.   Forgiveness speaks the truth in love.  It says, “What you are doing is wrong.  But I love you and want to be in relationship with you.  So, I will not hold your past sins against you.  Now stop sinning.” We do not excuse someone who is in sin.  We speak the truth to them in love.  We call them out on their sin and we offer them peace with us and God through Christ.  We invite them back into right relationship with us.

In light of our sin the ultimate way God shows love for us is through forgiveness.  If I had to sum up the whole of Scripture.  I don’t think I could do any better than to quote Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” 

Below are some quotes I found on the net baout forgiveness that I particularly liked.  Hope you enjoy them.

It’s said in Hollywood that you should always forgive your enemies – because you never know when you’ll have to work with them. Lana Turner.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. Bruce Lee

It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own. Jessamyn West

It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited. Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again. Saint Augustine

Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. Dag Hammarskjold

Forgiveness is like faith. You have to keep reviving it. Mason Cooley

Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable and always unacceptable. Robert Fripp

 Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but faces it head-on. Alice Duer Miller

To be social is to be forgiving. Robert Frost

There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” Bryant H. McGill.

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life. George MacDonald

Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. William Blake

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. Marianne Williamson

routines + community + customs = culture

I was doing so well when I started my blog but going on trips and getting caught up in various other activities removed me from the few routines I had established.  Well, I am back and I have added a few new routines to my life.

You would think that as a pastor I would be very good about my personal devotional life.  While it is almost impossible for me not to ponder Scripture and the deep issues of life on a daily basis, I have found it difficult to set a regular time that is devoted to being in the Word and prayer.  Well, that has changed as of late.

A little over 3 weeks ago I began going every weekday morning to a local McDonald’s at 6:30 a.m. for morning oatmeal and a 30min. morning devotion.  I have a little daily devotion book that I like to use called Living the Gospel Life. I’ve invited various people to come and join me whenever it fits into there schedules.  Eight different people have joined me at least once and three people join me at least once weekly so far.  Some days I am the only one who goes.

At first it bothered me a little when I was the only one to show up, as it was my original intent that this would be a way to help form community between some of the folks I know.  However, I very quickly realized that whether or not others were joining me I had begun a new routine for myself.  I now have a time and a place that is set apart at least five days a week for being in the Word, in prayer and for considering how my trust in Christ can influence my daily life.

In the mean time I am going to keep inviting folks to join me.  As others accept my invitation into this and other routines a community will form.  As this community forms we will establish customs.  As customs develop we will find that we have created a new culture.

This is what happened in the early Church as described in Acts 2:42 and following.  People got together daily and learned from those who lived with Jesus.  But they didn’t just “go to church” together.  They lived life together.  They had meals with each other regularly.  But it wasn’t just a social club either.  They made a habit of helping each other and those in need in the ways they were able to.  But it wasn’t just some philanthropic organization.  They didn’t just choose a cause and try to address it.  They sought God’s direction in all things.  They prayed together.  They prayed for each other and for others.  They were a blessing to one another and to those around them.  And as they formed this new culture many others were drawn to them and through them to faith in Christ.

Despite what the title of this article may imply, there is not a prescribed formula for sharing faith.  The title is really just an short way for me to remind myself and others that we are creatures of habit.  The habits we form good or bad will result in the culture of our lives and of those we influence.  If you invite people into your routines, what you put at the center of your routines will end up in the center of your shared culture.  I pray that Christ’s identity and teachings would be at the center of your routines, and that you would invite others to join you as you develop a new culture.

Living Forever, Now,

Pastor Michael James Grannis

suicide and lies…

The following is a letter I wrote recently for the monthly newsletter at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Norwood Young America, MN.  I was asked to submit it to the local paper and thought I would follow up with posting it here as well. 

God’s grace and mercy are with you as you follow Christ out of this Lenten season.

I recently read the account in Luke where Christ fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and then was tempted by Satan.  It struck me how crafty Satan is. Not only did he try to make Jesus doubt who He is (“If you are the Son of God…”), but he also tried to use God’s Word against Him, quoting Scripture to Christ as reason for Him to disobey the Father’s clear Word.

Satan will use any means necessary to ruin us, even twisting God’s Word against us.  We still see this in our world today.  In the last couple of months our community has lost 2 young men to apparent suicide.  I don’t know all the details connected with these tragic deaths, but I do know that the types of messages that Satan whispers into the minds of those who consider suicide.

Satan lies to us saying that we can never be forgiven for things we have done. LIES!  He tells us that the world would be better off without us. LIES!  He tries to deceive us into thinking that God wants us to take our lives. LIES!  Sometimes he tells us that life just isn’t worth the pain of living, or that taking our life is the ultimate way to get back at those who hurt us. LIES, LIES LIES!  Or like he did with Christ, he tries to use times of weakness to convince us to do things that will result in serious injury or death. All LIES! The worst part is that his lies always sound so much like the truth.  He wraps them in truth so that we will eat up his lies.

Satan knows the things that will get to us the most.  He knows the things that will tempt us to turn from God’s way or to doubt God’s Word. It is what he did in the very beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It is what he did with Christ in the desert, and he is still playing the “doubt card.”  But God’s Word is clear.  He loves and forgives us.  He created us with a purpose in this world.  He wants us to love not only Him but ourselves and others too.  In lonely and difficult times it is normal to feel despair and simply want the pain to end, but He calls on us to not give up.  In those times when we are at our lowest – when we feel like even those who should be there for us are not – we need to hear God’s Word of promise that He is the Judge who will make all things right.  He will bind up our wounds and wipe away our tears.  In times of weakness we are not called to put God to the test but to trust in His love and His strength to carry us through. 

In times of deep sadness like this we have an opportunity to offer God’s love, care, and compassion to each other and those around us.  I encourage all of you to put into practice the things God has spoken to us in His Word, by using whatever gifts God has blessed you with to bring His healing touch to our community. Pray that God would show you how you might help.  Talk with others about it.  Pray some more and then do what God has put on your heart. May we hear Him in His Word and may we do His will.  As we do His will, may the world give thanks and honor to Him.  May all grow in faith, hope and love toward God.

Living Forever, Now,

Pastor Michael James Grannis

outfoxed TWICE by a 16-month-old…

This morning was…well I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.  Kristy went to bed last night just after the kids went down.  I stayed up until about quarter to 11.  I was planning on going to a 5:30 group fitness class if I woke up early enough (the kids usually see to that).  Now, I didn’t even consider setting the alarm before going to bed.  I figured if the kids let me sleep in a bit and I didn’t wake up on my own, then I must need the sleep.  The kids have been a bit off on their sleep schedules the last week or so (resulting in many middle of the night debates over whether or not it was in fact time to get up), so any extra rest is just going toward paying down my recent sleep debt. 

Well, this morning was different (pleasantly so…or so it seemed).  We awoke to the familiar sound of our kids’ feet quickly carrying them to the bathroom.  Kristy turned over looked at the clock and said something like, “I can’t believe it.  The kids slept in till 6:30”  (In all seriousness, folks, this easily passes for sleeping in at our home)  She followed that up with, “Were you gonna go workout?”  I told her that I had already missed the class I wanted to attend, so I was in no hurry to get out of bed.  We chatted a bit about how nice it was to get a full, uninterrupted night of sleep.  

While we were laying there our boys ran into our room and cuddled into bed with us.  We waited for our little lady to follow behind, but she did not.  Soon we heard her making unhappy sounds, so we sent the eldest to go check on her and report back to us.  He quickly returned, saying that she was just behind him, and she did in fact follow him back into our room.  After a few more minutes of crowded snuggles, I sent the two boys to go take a shower.  Kristy took our little lady to go make breakfast, while I stayed right where I was to enjoy a few moments of solitude in a nice warm bed. 

My bliss was cut short, however, by a strange announcement.  Kristy came back and informed me that it was not actually 7:07 as our clock now read, but it was about 4:55.  She followed that up with, “So, you still have plenty of time to make it to your 5:30 workout class.”  I got up and hurried around, dividing my time between getting ready and playing moderator to bathroom arguments over shower toys.  I was almost ready to run out the door and make it to my class on time, but one item was nowhere to be found…my right workout shoe.  I searched high and low, but was unable to locate it.  After about 15 minutes of searching, I decided to call off the search. I wouldn’t make it to that class after all.

How did the clock get so off?  Kristy told me she remembers that our little girl was messing around with the clock yesterday.   How did my shoe disappear?  I have a sneaky suspicion that the same culprit is to blame.  The Bible teaches that humility is a very important trait.  It will be required of all people when we stand before our Creator and it is a pretty useful thing this side of eternity as well.  Well, it is pretty hard to think too long on one’s superiority when you find that you have been outfoxed by a 16-month-old not once but TWICE…and all before 6:00 a.m.

Thank you God for teaching me humility…

I’m gettin nothin for Christmas…

When it comes to spending money, nobody would accuse me of being a prodigal (look it up), but I am starting to feel a bit sad about my family Christmas this year.  In years past we toyed with the idea of limiting the money spent on presents by drawing names for our gift exchange (however, we never actually committed to this).  This year once again, when we started talking about Christmas plans, the idea of drawing names was brought up.  But about a week later we abandoned the idea…again.  What makes this year different is that instead of deciding to do the more traditional buy-everyone-a-present family gathering, it has been decided that only the kids (my kids) would get presents this year.

Initially, I was more than happy to comply.  It’s not that I don’t like shopping. Quite the contrary.  I am one of those few guys who thoroughly enjoys going to malls and shops, searching for treasures that may be hidden in the yet unscavanged nooks and crannies.  I especially enjoy going shopping during this time of the year when the air is chilling outside, and the atmosphere is warm and almost magical inside.  It seems that everywhere I go nostalgia is attacking all my senses, filling me with joy, making me whole both inside and out (a little much?).

Anyway, like I said, everybody who knows me knows I generally like to save money when at all possible (At the movie theater I recently asked for empty cups so that I could fill them at the drinking fountain, rather than buying the bottled water they were trying to sell).  But when it comes to buying presents I find real joy in finding the unexpected perfect gift no matter how much or how little the gift may cost (however, I could care less about buying greeting cards).  So, the past few weeks as the time has passed by I realized that something was really missing from the whole season for me.  I was missing buying presents.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am happy to have the extra cash in my pockets.  But it was occurring to me the other day how truly amazing Christmas shopping is.  When else in the year do you have so many people simultaneously going out of their way (and getting in each other’s ways) to spend their money (often in economically sacrificial ways) to bless the people God has put in their lives with things they perceive will bring them joy.   Not just money but the time, hassle, stress and intentionality so often required to accomplish the task of finding the right gifts for the right people…it really just amazes me.

So, why did my family opt to forgo the beautiful custom of mutual shows of love and care through the giving of gifts? Well, in short we all wanted to save some money.   The year has been tight financially for all of us for different reasons. When push came to shove we decided that rather than taxing each other with additional financial burdens, our mutual gift to each other would be to simply be with each other. In some ways it feels like a real let down to me. It doesn’t bother me that I am not getting anything (Oddly enough, the only thing I can think of right now that I want for Christmas is some new white t-shirts. Hardly worth the trouble of wrapping, really).   No, what has been bothering me is that I am not giving anything to anybody.

Well, just this past week an idea popped into my wife’s head.  There is a family we know who we found out is struggling quite a bit.  One of their children has been in and out of the hospital all year with cancer and now they are really struggling financially.  Kristy has begun to try to rally our church to bless this family with a significant financial gift in order to help them through this difficult time.  This has encouraged me to start asking others outside of our church if they could help contribute some money for this family as well.  Perhaps, you reading this blog want to join in and help them out too.  If so, just email me and I will let you know who to make the check out to and where to send it.  revgrannis@gmail.com

I may not be getting anything for Christmas this year, I may not even be giving that much this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help a family in need.   Maybe my family’s decision to forgo gifts this year was just a way for God to free up some money He wanted this other family to have instead.  Merry Christmas and safe travels to all who are traveling.