After a great Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday, Jaime, my mom and I traveled to Chicago to spend yesterday and today with my sister. Her apartment is located downtown, on the 28th floor, looking west and north. The view is amazing. We spent Friday night walking around the city, hitting famous places like The Magnificent Mile (which was crazy busy with holiday shoppers), Macy’s on State Street (9 floors of shopping, a 3-story Christmas tree, a food court and more), and had dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery (I had the Herbed Lemon Chicken with Asparagus).
Today we’re looking forward (well, some of us are…) to going to Daly Plaza to see the Christmas tree. There’s also our 3rd Thanksgiving dinner on tap for later this afternoon. Yum!
UPDATE: Pictures from our recent trip to Chicago are now online. Be sure to check out the bean and the view from my sister’s roof.
With thanksgiving tomorrow, I continue to be thankful for so many things in my personal and professional life. Jaime and I will travel to Cleveland for Thanksgiving day, then on to Chicago for 2 days to visit her brother and my sister. When we lived in Katy, we weren’t able to see our family so often, so it’s great to be in a place where we’re able to do that. We’ll stay at my sister’s place in downtown Chicago, about 3 blocks from the famed Michigan Avenue.
Among other things, I’m also thankful for our youth. When I checked my office mailbox this morning, I found a nice note from Pastor Carl thanking our youth. Not only did our youth have a great time at the Road Rally, but those who were the recipients of the service appreciated it and enjoyed having the youth there as well. It’s a great example of the Body of Christ at work.
What are you thankful for this thanksgiving?
Sometimes, working for a church can be a tiring thing. There is an expectation at many churches that their staff work long hours (much longer than they should), struggling to get all of the “necessary” work done, not to mention the “unnecessary” work that is really the more important stuff. Churches often under staff because of money, leaving too few people to do too little work. Then, on top of that, they leave their staff out to dry by cutting budget funding for ministry, complaining or criticizing far more than encouraging and supporting, or just plain not caring about the worker as a person.
This why I love my current church. They are just about the polar opposite of everything I’ve listed above. There is a staff care committee (the dreaded c-word!) that provides lunch for the staff several times each year. They give us birthday and Christmas gifts. We get cards from the church for anniversaries and birthdays. Debbie Ferrante, our prayer ministries leader, is in the early stages of forming PIT Crews for each staff person. This Personal Intercessory Team will meet with the staff person once per month for directed prayer for the staffer, their family and their ministry.
Sue and I talk about our church to other church workers all the time. They are constantly amazed at the level of support we get from our congregation. I feel so blessed to be a part of the body of believers at First Trinity. They are passionate, loving people who care for one another and for their staff. They care about the community 50 feet outside our doors, as well as the community as far south as New Orleans and Haiti. They are wonderful encouragers, who make serving in ministry fun, rewarding and a blessing.
Why am I thinking about this now? Because we celebrated Pastor Whited’s 5 years of service among us this weekend. We’ll also celebrate Ruth’s 35 years among us later this month. What a great church!
About 2 months ago now, we ordered some birthday postcards from VistaPrint that we could send out to our youth.
So far, it’s been a great investment. Towards the end of the month, Alicia runs a list of all the youth birthdays in our database and gives it to me. I then take about 15 minutes to write out 10-12 cards each month so that each student gets one. I’ve actually had several kids and even a few parents thank me for the card. Sometimes we get caught up in having to create big, awesome, expensive events to reach students today. While quality is important, the truth is that they get enough of that from the world. They just want to know that we care about them and they mean more to us than a check mark on an attendance sheet.
The other great thing that has come from the birthday cards is that it keeps the kids in front of me and gives me a chance to pray for them as I write the card. It’s such a small commitment of time on our side, but the dividends are huge. Sounds like a good investment to me!
At Concordia University Chicago (or River Forest to us old-timers), we used to sing this silly little rhyme about Luther:
Good ol’ Marty Luther,
Good ol’ Marty Luther,
I think the Reformation’s grand!
With his five and ninety theses,
He tore the Pope to pieces,
And made me who I am! LCMS!
In looking for the lyrics online, I found a different version that reads similar:
I love Martin Luther,
Good old Martin Luther,
I think the Reformation’s grand!
His five and ninety theses,
They tore the Pope to pieces,
Now on the solid rock I stand!
At the time, it was a silly joke to us about being Lutheran. I was Lutheran because that’s what I grew up, not because I cared about what they taught more than any other church. As I’ve spent more time in ministry, I’ve come to appreciate the gifts that Luther brought to the Christian church while not falling into the sometimes cultic celebration of Luther that happens in our greater church body.
Today we celebrate the Reformation as a whole on the date that Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. The primary gift to the church from this was a return to the Word of God as the rule and norm for our faith. Closely connected with that was Luther’s division of Law and Gospel. C. F. W. Walther wrote about how to distinguish Law and Gospel, a quick read and helpful for understanding the topic. Luther even made it to #3 on the list of 1000 most influential people of the 2nd Millenium. The ranking methodology is interesting and Luther’s entry is a fun read. I have the book somewhere, but can’t seem to find it right now…
So we celebrate Luther’s gift to the church today and continue to remind ourselves about the importance of God’s Word over Man’s as we continue to reach the world, mindful not to repeat the mistakes of the church at Luther’s time.