Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Politically Correct Christmas?

There's been a lot of concern expressed amongst Christians this year about the elimination of the word "Christmas" and substituting it with "Holiday". Help me out here...why do we as Christians need the world to validate our holy days? And why do we need stores... the same stores that have hijacked our holy days and made them greedy days...why do we need their validation especially? It seems to me that the Christian church would celebrate the separation of materialism from Christmas, not criticize it.

I just find it odd that Christians are the first to object to the need to be politically correct in other areas but here, at Christmas, they are retaliating with their own form of "PC". This is the kind of behavior that makes the world hate Christians and not want to be one. This is the kind of external religion that is about looking good on the outside instead of being good on the inside.

I just don't understand why Christians demand the world to dance to their tune. Why should they? They will do what seems right to them...and they should. Why would we want them to be phony - to talk about God, Jesus, and Christmas - as if they believe, when they don't? It would irritate me if Muslims imposed their festival on me and then got mad if I tried to neutralize the verbage.

I think we need to wake up and realize that we live in a pluralisitic society. Yes, Christianity dominated culture for a long time...for good and for bad. It's not that way anymore. Let's get over it and move on. Let's find better ways to influence culture than to berate stores and such for not using our terminology for a holiday that we let get away from us.

Our faith should highlight a transforming relationship with a living God, not petty nit-picking over words for a pseudo-Christian holiday. Is that really what we want to be known for?

Well...there you have my mild mannered opinion. Feel free to disagree!

Friday, December 21, 2007

More on Golden Compass

Well, I guess my blog still isn't allowing everyone to post. Sorry about that. So here's a post that was emailed to me about the movie "Golden Compass"...

I just finished the first two books in the "Golden Compass" series of books. I couldn't put them down, and that's an odd thing for fantasy fiction and me. Really captivating plot, solid writing, very advanced for children's fiction.

I'm putting the third one down and not sure I'll be picking it up again, no matter how good it is. Very clearly it is a story about the fallen angels and all their cohorts mounting war against God (no chance it isn't our God since the author calls him YAHWEH) claiming he's not really the Creator but the first created angel who pridefully led everyone to believe that since he came first, he was God.

The way I see it, it's a story about "the other side" and what they believe... however, the definition of good and evil has been switched around. Blurred at best. So this is no classic story of good and evil, which most fantasy fiction is. It takes a severe departure from the best of it in that way and questions everything. And worst of all, it leads the reader to question God.

I'm coming out, surprisingly, very strongly against these books because of exactly that. Children, whose theology is still forming, will be attacked even worse... at least those who get through the books for the difficulty of reading level. I am pro-Harry Potter and very opposed to Christians who won't read things before criticizing them... but I'm on this band wagon now. Dawn

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Overcoming Faith Objections

I just got back from being gone for a week. One of the first things I did was to listen to Christine's message from Sunday. She took the second message in our Making Christmas Real series. You might want to give it a listen.

I like how she opened it by talking about a number of Christmas cards that she's received that simply said, "Believe" as if everyone knows what that is in reference to. But her questions were, "Believe what?" What does it mean to believe? What are we asking people to believe? And how does that belief come about? Good questions that she addressed.

One idea that she borrowed from Andy Stanley ( ) was that when you come to believe in Jesus you don't stop doubting, your doubts just get smaller. They are proportionately smaller than your faith. It's like all the doubts you have about marriage. You tell people all the reasons why you'll never get married. They are great reasons...until you meet someone you love. Your love doesn't eliminate your objections (you'll lose your independence, it will cost too much, etc.) the objections just don't carry as much weight as they once did.

And that's what happens when you take time to discover Jesus. At some point the balance shifts and your objections grow smaller in regard to your growing faith. But the doubt never goes away. Those questions about evolution or the suffering in India or how those miracles happened will remain. You see, doubt and faith is a tension that never fully disappears.

So, if you are waiting for ALL of your faith questions to be resolved before you take the step of faith, that's just not realistic. Life's not like's not that neat and tidy! Sometimes we have to move forward even though everything isn't resolved for us. Listen or read what Christine has to say..

Monday, December 03, 2007

Who calls the shots?

Thanks to those that tested my link below. Seems to be least for them! Now the rest of you can go back and add your movie comments!

I.T. K.? Sorry for no "in the know" comments this week. I guess I'm too busy working on my house in my free time to have my ear to the ground on much right now! I need to get a bedroom finished in time for Christmas!

Men and Women's roles: I never have enough time to talk about everything I'd like to talk about on Sunday's. One thing I'd like to have had time to address is how my teaching on "Putting Women in Their Place" shakes out in a marriage. There's a lot I could say about that but one thing I hear a lot of couples say is, "We are basically equal but we believe the husband should 'make the call' when we disagree."

Hmmmmm....I've got a problem with that. That doesn't sound very equal to me. My experience, in marriage and in church leadership, tells me that when two parties don't agree that's NOT the time for one person to pull rank on the other. That's the time for MORE discussion, more research, more input...maybe even counseling or some form of mediation. Whenever one person "calls the shot" they are opening themselves up to resentment. You can say, Well that's why God gives grace to the wife to submit to the decision. But I'd counter by asking why that isn't just as much the time for the man to humble himself and defer to his wife.

Like I've been saying on Sundays...there is no wonder or mystery in one person taking control. That's the cowards way out in my opinion. The courageous person will seek to talk until a true compromise and true unity is reached. It will undoubtedly require more work and more time, but all good things do. It's worth the effort. Plus, it requires us to be more in-touch with God. Any one, on their own human effort, can call a shot. But to reach a compromise with another person requires the grace of God's Spirit working in you.

I'd love to field questions on this issue and others. Remember you can post your comments and questions anonymously. So ask/comment away!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Please test the "comment" link

Hey...I've heard a lot this week that people are having trouble commenting with the link in this blog. Bummer! No wonder you are all so quiet! I guess a lot of you had comments in regard to the movies.

Do me a favor...would you click on the "comment" link below and just run a test for me. You can just say "testing" or whatever. I 'd like to see if I can solve this. Thanks.

Monday, November 26, 2007

At the Movies...

I'm fairly limited on what kind of movies I like to watch. I'm hoping others will kick in their two cents by posting below. I like action and suspense. I also like movies that teach a moral well without being preachy. Humor is great but I like it subtle and not the yuck, yuck kind! I guess I'm kind of picky. I generally can handle bad language. It doesn't seem to phase me unless it doesn't fit the plot. I stay clear of the horror genre or anything blatantly sexual.

So, with that said, this is what I've been watching...

Shooter ** - I liked this movie as much as you could like a movie about an assassin. It got increasing bloody toward the end. I wouldn't recommend it for that reason. But the plot was interesting and it kept me guessing.

Breach *** - This was well acted and a fascinating story. It also gives insight into how people can compartmentalize their life separating out their faith from a life filled with lies. It's about the biggest security breach in US history involving one of our spies.

Fracture *** - Anthony Hopkins does a great job keeping people guessing about how he murdered his wife. There's a twist at the end that gives you a satisfying "aha" moment.

Amazing Grace ** - I was looking forward to this movie and was disappointed by it's pacing. It just seemed to drag for me...maybe because there was no suspense...I knew how it was going to turn out! Chuck Colson recently said this is one of his all time favorites. I'd definitely recommend it for the history lesson and for a great example of a man compelled by his faith to fight injustice. In case you haven't heard, it's about how slavery was outlawed in England.

Bourne Ultimatum *** - If this movie had a great moral to it I'd give it four stars. I suppose it is a story about fighting injustice and exposing lies. It's just no "Amazing Grace". I haven't seen a movie that kept me on the edge of my chair like this since "The Fugitive" years ago. I really like Matt Damon's understated character. Unlike "Shooter" he only uses force when he has too to save his life.

The Golden Compass ??? - This movie is raising a lot of concern in the Christian community. I generally don't like to criticize something before it hits the street. I don't like it when Christians are always dissing things in the media but this movie might be an exception. This is what one Cedarbrooker recently wrote me...

I was going to use [The Golden Compass] for my book club, but had some concerns, so I read the whole series and found that it is blantant anti-God. My thought is that some families may not be aware of how bad this series is concerning Christianity. My family has enjoyed the Harry Potter books. We see them as just fantasy. This movie and series is something very different.

I'd love to hear back from anyone your thoughts on these movies or others you'd recommend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In the Know...11/20/07

I can tell how many people click on this blog so as long as people are reading "I.T.K." I'll trust that means you want me to keep writing it!

Lisa and I enjoyed getting to know Jerry and Julie Burg a bit more last week. I first met Jerry when he was installing the room divider at the banquet center before the Cedarbrook band's first cd release concert. Jerry said that as he was installing the divider he sensed that God was going to use the banquet center but thought that was an odd thing to think. Then he heard about Cedarbrook and...well, I guess God IS using the banquet center! Jerry's dividers are the Cadillac of room dividers. He donated one to our Children's ministry. He said that before the internet they only sold in three states but now they sell worldwide!

I heard back from Diane Colson that we sent out 88 Christmas giftboxes last week for Operation Christmas Child. Good job! People seem to really like that. And now Darlene Huehn is helping to promote Angel Tree that distributes presents locally for Christmas. I appreciate people championing these various projects. By the way, did you know that Darlene is engaged to be married December 22nd?

Matt Deyo-Svendsen is getting his master's degree at the University of Minnesota but he is within striking distance of Cedarbrook and so we've invited him to share in January about his recent trip to Africa with Habitat for Humanity. Matt is also the guy who got us on iTunes!

I heard there was quite a crowd of soup-cookers at Janene Samples house on Sunday preparing for our Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to thank Janene, Suzie Ziebel, Lisa Diederich, Sandy Buckner, Jackie Williams, Jayne Rechtzigel, Elli Hunt, Jennifer Froseth, and Barb Prochnow.

I had a great discussion with Cherise Nielsen, Steve Jensen and Tiffany Ehlert tonight about how we can offer a variety of options for people to join one of our trips to New Orleans to work in our Center City Project. We are hoping to send off another team over Spring Break '08.

I'm curious about the success of our hunters. Tiffany told me that her husband Chris hunted with Andre Oldberg this past weekend in Medford where his Chris's brother took down a 17 point buck! Jon Spanger got an 11 point buck on Steve Jensen's farm. I think Diane Sinz said that Todd and their son Mitchell already got their tags by Sunday morning. Way to go guys. What about the rest of you? How about if you post your success below? Go on...don't be shy.

Cedarbrook Sermons Now on iTunes!

If you are an iTunes user you can now download and listen to Cedarbrook sermons for free through iTunes! You can listen to them on your computer or download them to your ipod or Mp3 player. You can also subscribe and get them automatically sent to you each week.

Hey, tell a friend who wants to check out Cedarbrook but never seems to make it. Or that relative in Sawdust, Wyoming who doesn't have a church nearby!

Go to then click on "podcasts" and do a search for "Cedarbrook Church podcasts". Enjoy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Interpreting Parables Correctly

There's one thing I wish I would have taken the time to talk about in the parable series and that is that you have to be careful how to interpret them.

This was brought to my attention when I attended a small group discussion last week. Some people were expressing confusion at how they could love their children like the father in the parable of the Lost Sons (Prodigal). I said, "Whoa...don't go there. That parable wasn't given to teach parents how to parent. It was given to teach us about God's love. The only application Jesus wanted us to get from it was that we should rejoice when "sinners" respond to God's love and not be critical."

You see, God is able to love people unconditionally all the time because he is infinite and he can't be worn out by us. But we are not so fortunate. Our finiteness causes us to need to implement boundaries into our relationships to save us from being relationally burned and taken advantage of. There are indeed times when our love should be completely selfless and unconditional. But if we treated all people like that all the time we'd end up in a psych ward by the end of the week!

So, be careful with the parables in how you apply them. They have restricted application. The same can be said about judging. Jesus often taught through parables not to judge but he wasn't saying that we should NEVER judge. He was saying that we shouldn't judge sinners that show an interest in turning to God. I'll be preaching on appropriate times and ways to judge in January. Stay tuned.

R.U. "In the Know?"

Well, this is about as close as I can get to "gossip". Welcome to my world...

I dropped in on the Men's Meeting last Tuesday night (led by Jeff Ayres and Keith Nye) at the Cedarbrook House to touch base with the guys. They are working their way through a 16 week course called "Winning at Work and at Home". That night's topic was "Improving Your Sex Life"! Of all the nights to drop in! But seriously, it was one of the best teachings I've seen on the subject. I told the guys that I'm going to be recommending this to couples from now on. Guys, if you can't attend the meetings, buy the cd's or dvd's. You and your wife will be glad you did. If every man at Cedarbrook went through this series we'd be better men for it. Learn more here.

Working with other church youth leaders, Andy Britz helped schedule the first all-church ski trip for youth this February. Pretty cool team work.

Did you know that Children's Ministry is going wild? A year ago we had six people volunteering on a Sunday and now Brenda Brewer has 20 volunteers each week. They are attracting close to 100 children every Sunday! I'm hearing great things about the work of Kari Mogen, Julie Colson, Kristen Schroeder, Jon Farrell, Jon Kluver, Lisa Diederich, Kendra Hefner and a whole bunch more!

Speaking of big numbers, our Sunday services have taken a big jump. With children, we are fast approaching the 500 mark total for both services. Thanks for sitting up close to free the seats in the back (and we just started adding more seats too). Thanks to Dave Prestebak, Jon Lutz and Ken Jorandby for faithfully setting up chairs each week. I hear they could use some help though now that the load has increased.

I had some fellow Viking fans over on Sunday to watch the "big" game. I think I better keep their names anonymous. It's not something people want to brag about these days! Good thing the food was good because it was a real sleeper on the purple side of things (I gotta give that old QB some credit in the green and gold!) Maybe next year.

Dave and Lynn Prestebak shared the parents side of sending a son to war at Fresh Encounter on Sunday night and Kendra Hefner shared from her time in Saudi Arabia as a woman in the service. It was a good time of lifting up our past and present troops in prayer.

Orland Able just retired for the third time. This time from Fleetfarm. He says this time its' for good. I enjoyed a cup of coffee with him today in celebration. It's great to hear from one of our senior members how much Cedarbrook means to him. He's been in church all his life but much of it was the "toxic" version. He said it's been refreshing.

I heard second hand that Dennis Mentor received two gifts for the land debt reduction on Sunday as he tended the "Building 127" booth. It's great to hear that the booth is getting the word out and people are responding.

Jeff Ayres came off Upper Tainter lake today after fishing for walleyes one last time before the ice sets in. I love the patience that fishermen have (and I don't!).

Well, that's what I remember from my week. Now you are "in the know".

Monday, November 05, 2007

This week at Cedarbrook

I was talking to Byron Anderson over coffee about how the chancelor at Stout will often email about conversations he's had with people around about Stout. Byron said it was always interesting to "listen in" on his musings. I thought I could do a bit of the same to put some faces on all that goes on around Cedarbrook...

Speaking of Byron, did you see the "Building 127" table that he and Judy Abel had out on Sunday? Byron came up with a unique way to communicate to us all the status of paying off the church land. Using a LEGO platform, we will put a "brick" on the platform for every $100 invested until the platform is covered. How many bricks is that? 1370 (representing $137,000). The table will be up for the two months for you to check out.

I enjoyed the pizza served at the Welcome Team's luncheon on Sunday. I so appreciate how Diane Sinz, Sarah Anderson and Diane Kistner work with about 25 others to welcome people on Sunday, inform them of where everything is and help them find the best possible seat! A great service starts with a great welcome!

Betsy Wolbert invited a number of people over to her house on Thursday to discuss how we can decorate on Sunday's to supplement each sermon. Patti Irwin, Sandy Buckner, Larry Froseth and Kelly Pember were there to help brainstorm as I layed out my upcoming sermon series. (I also got a couple kitchen remodeling tips on my way out the door!)

It's been great to have Andre Oldberg back singing with the band now and then when he and Krista drive back from Medford. Andre was back in town to do some turkey hunting with the Cormican's. But he also tells me that he and Krista are having some serious Cedarbrook withdrawals and like the excuse to come back for a CB style church service.

Christine Ruth was off preaching at her kid brother's church in St. Paul (Substance Church) on Sunday. Peter started the church two years ago from scratch on the University of Minnesota - St. Paul campus and they are already drawing 800 people! From what I heard, Christine had a great time with the very young and lively crowd but a little weary after three services of preaching!

I dropped in on Christine's "Crossway Bible Class" a couple Tuesday's ago at the Cedarbrook Center. She has quite the crowd of eager Bible students engaged in discussion...too many to mention (40). I loved seeing her passion for the Old Testament and the way everyone was so quick to comment or ask questions.

Last night Lisa and I enjoyed mentoring a group of parents at the Parenting Club and now tonight I'm off to visit my old small group that I started and turned over to Swen and Nancy Erickson. Sounds like it is still a lively group. One of the members was just telling me that the group has started to serve people in North Menomonie who they hear have pressing needs (bringing meals, etc.). That was great to hear!

Well, that's just a bit of the life that I'm seeing around here this week...

Here's a video for you ...a spoof on the IBM/Apple ads...remy

Undignified Love

The parable of the Lost Sons (Prodigal Son) is a challenge to anyone looking to learn about a "safe" way to love. Forget about boundaries, God's love for us is the "risk it all" kind that takes no thought for Himself.

What struck me about this story - something I had never seen before - was that the father in the story ran to his son, not just because he missed him so much but because he wanted to protect him from the abuse of the villagers. The villagers would undoubtedly have taken up the offense for the father and would be quick to meet the boy at the city gate to discourage him from returning. It's amazing, isn't it, how unkind and vengeful religious people can be. Maybe you've been on the receiving end of this kind of hatred.

But the father beat his way through the crowd and made it to his son before they did, saving him from the humiliation and the shame. The father didn't care what people thought of him. He wasn't looking to preserve his reputation. His only concern was the welfare of the son. What a picture of God's protective love for us. And isn't that what we see in Jesus bearing the shame of our sin on the cross? No mere mortal could have ever conceived of a god like this!
It's worth some time to consider how we might be like that village crowd with the "sinners" in our midst. And it's worth some time to see how we might be more like the father by embracing them, welcoming them back into the faith community and even giving them the "seat of honor" at our banquets.

(By the way, the audio file won't be uploaded until the end of this week but the text file is ready to go.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Forgiveness First, Then Repentence

I was telling someone the other day that what I enjoy about Jesus' parables is that as you layer one on the other certain themes emerge that you may not have seen with just one parable. One theme that I see emerging is that Jesus doesn't expect us to repent in order for him to forgive us. He forgives us in order that we will repent.

I mentioned this on Sunday in my sermon on The Lost Sheep. Sheep are incapable of "repenting". Once lost, they shut down, curl up and wait to be rescued or die. If the shepherd doesn't seek them out and carry them home they are toast. In the parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15) the same is true. The coin has no ability to "repent" and is dependent on the woman to find it.

I will show this Sunday that the Prodigal son tried to repent by returning home willing to be a servant but the end of this kind of "repentance" was only slavery. That's not what God wants for us. He wants us to be his son or daughter. So true repentance doesn't happen for the prodigal until his Father takes action - embraces him and offers him a banquet. True repentance takes place when the son agrees to attend the party and live like a son instead of a slave.

I'm convinced that many Christians live like slaves vs. children of God because they still haven't received God's forgiveness. They are in a perpetual state of trying to earn God's forgiveness, but since that's impossible, they never achieve their goal which makes them feel like they are on the "outs" with God. Is that true for you?

Monday, October 22, 2007

When to "Take a Stand"

Someone mentioned to me the other day that some people around town think Cedarbrook is "soft", meaning we don't confront people about lifestyle issues. I purposefully don't try to defend comments like these in my preaching but addressing the "soft" comment fit perfectly with my sermon on The Great Banquet on Sunday. It gave me the opportunity to explain that there is both method and theology behind my reticence to "take a stand" and condemn lifestyle issues publicly. Give it a read/listen to see if you agree.

There was a day when I would jump at the chance to "take a stand" for "righteousness". It felt so good to point out how others were doing it wrong (implying that I was doing it right). It compelled people to pat me on the back and thank me for "preaching the truth". And it drew a clear line in the sand, defining what a follower of Jesus truly looks like (and I love clarity vs. fuzziness). Plus it made me feel like "God's man" know, being willing to step up and say the unpopular thing - kind of a spiritually macho thing to do.

But over the years I feel like God has exposed some of the self serving attitudes in "taking a stand". Truthfully, I don't know what good it does. I'm not saying that there is never a place for it. There is. But often not the place where we think it is. Too often it only serves to puff up our pride and turn the target of our "stand" off. We only polarize ourselves more. How is that helpful in reaching the unchurched?

Sometimes the hardest thing (certainly for me), and the most righteous thing is to just keep our mouths shut. Now if your character flaw is that you are too wishy-washy, God might be speaking the exact opposite to you. You need to stand up for what you believe. But that's not my problem.

As for being soft, it's a compliment to me because twenty years ago (uh, and more recently than that!) I was accused of being harsh. I guess I've come a long way. I'm just thankful that Jesus' Spirit is the One who brings true conviction to our hearts and not self-righteous preachers.

The next three Sundays I'll be adding to what I said so I hope you'll join me in person or on-line.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The fun of judging others...

Yesterday, Christine Ruth tackled the parable of The Weeds. She brought some great insight to it. What I find interesting in the parables is how your first impression isn't always the right impression. As with the weeds, the first impression is that it's a parable of judgment. But in reality it's a parable about NOT judging. Religious people love to judge and Jesus says, "Leave that to me. Let 'em be." Ooooohhhhh...but judging is SO MUCH FUN...especially when you KNOW that you have the truth...that YOU are right and everyone else is wrong!!! I mean, that's the dream of every insecure person, isn't finally be in the place of power and look down on OTHERS instead of them having them look down on you?

Sorry for the dripping sarcasm but their is a lot of psychology that comes into play regarding why people turn to God/religion. I've done enough study/teaching on shame issues to know that our brain is constantly looking for affirmation and we will do whatever we can - no matter how dysfunctional - to feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately people use God/religion to boost their ego. But Jesus tells us that it's not our job to judge who's "in" and who's "out" with God. There are better ways to feel good about yourself.

It reminds me of my ordination interview. I was asked the age old question..."Tell us what will happen to the tribal chief who has never heard about Jesus." The "right" answer is that without Jesus he is eterally lost. But I said, "I have no idea. But I trust that God does and he will be perfectly just." That unsettled my interviewers but I think that's precisely what Jesus was getting at in the parable of The Weeds. He didn't want religious people sitting around making judgments about things that were none of their business.

You can listen or read Christine's message here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Two Debtors parable

I love the parables of Jesus. They appear to be so simple but as you explore them they take on layers. One of the things I enjoy doing is to view the parables from the viewpoint of everyone involved.

For example, in the parable of the Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-50), there is a man who owes his lender $5,000 and another man who owes $50,000. I took some time to explore times when I owed little and I owed much and how I felt. When I owed little, my high task orientation kicked in and I decided I'm going to "DO IT", I'm going to "GET 'ER DONE". I'll get another job, I'll work nights, I'll freeze spending. I will do whatever I have to do to make it happen. It's all about me and my abilities.

If someone were to offer help with my small debt, I'd say, "No...thanks...I've got it covered." And inwardly I'd be proud of my ability to rise to the occassion and save the day.

But when I have owed thousands I merely cry because there's nothing I can do to solve the problem. I like it when I am in control. I hate it when I'm at the mercy of others. If someone were to offer to wipe out my debt I would be tempted to refuse. It's so humiliating to admit that I can't fix the problem. But if someone were to offer the help I think I'd take it because I could stop living with the weight of the debt and finally start living in freedom.

We understand things so well when it relates to the natural world. That's why Jesus told parables. The trick is to make the appropriate application to the spiritual world.

You see the big mistake we often make with God is to think that our problems are small and WE can handle them. God offers to help and we say "No, got it covered". And in doing so we miss the opportunity to encounter God in a very profound way. We would be wise to ask God to see our sin from his perspective so that we could see how much we truly need his help. Maybe then we would embrace God in a way that we've never done before.

Check out my sermon here. I won't be able to check posts this week but I hope you will post your thoughts and comment on what others write as well.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Am I Loving My Neighbor or Enabling Them?

In light of the parable of The Good Samaritan, the obvious question to surface is; How do I know that my helping someone isn't enabling them? That was the question that someone posted in my entry below.

There are lots of ways to answer that so let me take a few stabs at that question:
  • I think it's often helpful to define terms and so I would ask, "What does it mean to help someone?" Is helping them doing what they ask of you or is it doing what will lead to true freedom? If the victim in Jesus' parable was able to talk and they asked you to carry them rather than put them on the donkey, would that truly help them? Probably not because it would overwhelm you so much that you too might be lying beside the road near death.
  • Because this question is so tricky it requires significant input from both God and wise counselors. So it's not a time to isolate and try to solve things on your own. People who like to be enabled are great at manipulating you through guilt so it's important to have clear voices speaking truth into your situation and not letting someone pull your strings. The more wisdom we receive the less conflicted we feel.
  • Shame based people are easily manipulated because they feel like they aren't good enough and maybe if they try to help lots of people with their problems they'll prove that they really are good enough and get the approval that they've always wanted. That's a black hole. Don't go there! If you recognize that shame is an issue in your life I'd get counseling for that before I tried to solve the world's problems.
  • Finally, I think you have to assess the fruit of your "help". If the person you are "helping" isn't getting any better, then maybe you aren't helping them after all, only enabling their bad behavior. Some times we help by doing nothing or doing the opposite of what seems like help (calling the police, exposing a problem, etc.)

There are no easy answers to the conflict that often comes with trying to help someone. Jesus taught us that it's always the right thing to do to help others in need, just make sure that you are truly helping them and not making matters worse.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bad Religion and Toxic Faith

Is there ever a time when you should NOT obey the Bible? I think so.

Paul said that "the Letter (of the Law) kills but the Spirit gives life". (2 Corinthians 3:16). And that's exactly what some Bible verses do when applied in the wrong situation. If you listened to my sermon on Sunday about The Good Samaritan, you heard me tell how both the Priest and the Levite in Jesus' parable used scripture to excuse them from helping a man near death.

That's bad religion. That's toxic faith. It totally misrepresents who God is to the world.

But Jewish rabbi’s had a practice called “binding and loosing” scripture to prevent this from happening. When someone felt that a scripture shouldn't be obeyed the elders in the community were to determine if that person should be “bound” to obey scripture or “loosed” to not obey it.

Jesus gave this same right to his disciples. This is important so that the Bible doesn’t put us in bondage to meaningless rules. A good example is the woman caught in adultery (John 8). The Bible says to stone people caught in adultery but Jesus loosed the community from carrying this out. He forgave her but challenged her to stop her life of sin.

Have you ever seen a Bible verse obeyed that did more damage than good?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Help them. Don't judge them!

I saw something in the parable of the Sower and the Seed that I had never seen before. The parable talks about a seed that falls on hard, rocky and thorny soil. The seed just sits on the hard soil and waits for the birds to eat it while the seed on the other soil sprouts and grows but eventually dies.

This parable is often taken personally, as in, I better clean up my act and work on having better soil. But what I saw is in relation to other people. When I meet someone who I can clearly see has a compromised faith, instead of judging them, this parable tells me that the clock is ticking and I have just a small window of time to help them with their soil condition. The question is...what can I do to help them develop their soil so the seed will not only sprout and grow for a time...but actually produce a harvest.

I see too many people come to church for a time and then suddenly disappear. Sure, you can blame it on the church not being perfect, but I think it often has something to do with the nature of the person. They come to church because a seed has fallen on their heart and they are stirred to seek God. But soon their troubles or personal distractions pull them back out of church and away from God.

Instead of judging the weak the church community can seize the moment, while there's still time, and encourage them in their faith - helping them address their issues of "hard soil", "rocks" and "thorns". It's that kind of understanding and encouraging community that I want to be a part of. How about you?

The Sower and the Seed

I had a great time telling the story of the Sower and the Seed yesterday. It was fun because I surprised people in the way I dealt with it. Most people hear the story and feel condemned for their bad soil. But I used my time to look at the good seed instead.

One thing that has always confused me about that parable is why the farmer sowed seed in places other than the field. I mean, come on, can we really blame rocks and thorns and hard paths for not bearing a harvest? What was he thinking? But the point here is that God plants his "seed" in unlikely places. Since God has unlimited "seed" he can "waste" it by sowing it in places that don't normally produce a harvest. It's a risk but a risk that he is willing to take.

The analogy is that God does the same thing with people. We typically share God's word with people who we think would make "Good Christians" and pass by the unlikely prospects...the poor, sexually immoral, addicts, etc. But God is generous with his word. And he's not worried about getting dirty. He'll mix with anyone.

It's a great picture of God's love for everyone. Now, if we can just learn from him! Read/listen to the sermon here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Good Marriages make for Good Parenting

I mentioned on Sunday that one of the biggest credibility busters with a child is a bad marriage and encouraged couples to get help. Let me give you some good resources for that. First, you might want to contact one of these two local professional Christian counselors:

  • Steve Tyvol who attends Cedarbrook and can meet with you at the Cedarbrook House on Saturdays (or New Richmond during the week.) Call 715-781-3398.
  • Robin Williams who works out of the Access office in Menomonie.
Plus, I highly recommend a Retrouvaille Marriage Retreat. These are practical weekend retreats in the Twin Cities that deal with the nitty-gritty of getting rocky marriages back on track. A number of couples from Cedarbrook have attended with excellent results.

When your children see that you are at least working on your marriage you give your child hope and model for them the essence of character.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Parenting isn't for Cowards

I never intended to take the summer off from blogging. It just happened! But now I'm back. I hope you had a great summer.

I'm preparing for two weeks of teaching on parenting. I'm calling it Parenting with Love and Limits. After giving it that title I realized that it tends to imply that Limits is in contrast to Love, which isn't the case. Both children and parents tend to see it that way though. Children feel "abused" by limits and parents feel guilty for "abusing" their child...afraid of the psychological harm that will be inflicted and quickly back away.

That's unfortunate because limits bring definition to a child's life. They help a child to focus on what's important and let go of the rest. Plus limits help a child learn how to deal with disappointment. Life tends to deal out a lot of disappointment and if a child grows up shielded from that they are headed for a rude awakening when their marriage or job or children don't make them "happy" all the time.

As a follow up to these sermons my wife (Lisa) and I will be starting a Parenting Club to help coach parents through their years of parenting. I'm not sure what day or night we'll do it but if that interests you let me know.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Welcome Andy Britz!

After a year of searching for a new youth pastor we have finally found one that we think is a great match for Cedarbrook! We extended an offer to Andy Britz last week and he has accepted the position.

I'm very excited about Andy joining us. It was worth the wait. Thanks so much for all of the input many of you gave us in the process. After our failed attempt last Fall to hire someone we made Andy jump through a number of hoops, being interviewed a total of four times by different groups of people. Here was the process...

  • Lisa and I met Andy and his wife Jill for lunch
  • LEAD met with Andy and Jill
  • Staff met with Andy and Jill
  • Andy presented to staff, LEAD and youth leaders. At this meeting we also had a second candidate present and we then took a straw poll. Andy was the clear favorite, especially with the younger attendees.
  • We had hoped to bring Andy before the students before actually offering him the job but we ran out of time. He was being pursued by another church and scheduling wouldn't allow more interviews. But with the positive feedback from the youth that saw him we are confident that Andy will be well liked.

Here's a brief overview of Andy:
> He's 32, grew up in the UP of Michigan but currently lives in Osceola, WI.
> He attended Northwestern College in St. Paul where he got his degree in Youth Ministry.
> He's worked at two churches over seven years. In both settings he proved to be an instant draw to the students. In Osceola many of the students in his group were from outside of the church.
> He plays guitar and leads worship.
> He's married to his wife Jill and has two young children.
> He's also a carpenter and has been in that trade for the past two years.

I'm excited for you to meet Andy. One of my goals was to find someone that is easily approachable and quickly likeable. I think that describes Andy well. He's the kind of person that has a quick smile and is very easy going. But he also has a passion for investing into the lives of students.

Brad Kehn will be introducing Andy to the students at the Bonfire on June 13th. Brad and Andy will be working closely over the next few weeks to make a smooth transition. Andy will start leading the Wednesday meetings in July. He will be actively looking for a house to move into by August if possible. I hope to introduce Andy to the congregation on June 24th.

Let's be sure to not only work at welcoming the Britz family but also bringing closure to Brad's time with us as well. Brad played a crucial role in the history of Cedarbrook Youth. He didn't just keep the ministry alive but invested in it and prepared us for the future. The Cedarbrook Youth Ministry is stronger today because of Brad's involvement.

I think Andy will bring a lot of great things to the lives of students as well as to Cedarbrook as a whole. Now we can move on and take things to the next level.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Whose script are you reading?

My post below talks about your story. I talked about that a little this past Sunday. God's story for us always ends in resurrection...if we let it. No matter how bad things get God wants to turn your story around for good. Your chapters may not read the way you want them to, but in the end, God's story proves God to be faithful.

I was speaking with someone today about this idea. I told them that we are all like famous actors who read scripts to determine which movie they will star in. God gives us the right to choose the script. We can pick bad scripts or good ones. It's our choice. Many actors have ruined their career by becoming anxious and choosing a bad script. The wise person will reject the bad scripts and wait for the good one to come along...the one that ends in triumph and not defeat.

If you are in a decision making process right now, wait for a good script. Don't get desperate and jump at a script that will cast you in a losing role. God is writing great scripts for your life. Wait for those and then follow them with all your heart.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Finding Your Story

Sometimes when I'm too busy to offer my thoughts I like to give you someone elses thoughts. I came across a blogger who laments his lack of living a compelling story. But what's most interesting is the comment from Jody Ferlack. Jody talks about the story that God gave her. It's not one she would have chosen yet it is compelling and has given her a platform to speak of God's love. Jodie's family was traumatized by a suicidal driver who drove through a restaurant wall where they were sitting. Her oldest child died and her youngest suffered a brain injury. Jody also has her own blog that you might find to be an encouragement.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

God's Redemptive Plan for New Orleans

I spent a fast 48 hours in New Orleans last week with two ministry partners, Dave Johnson and Amy Burns. We went to scout out future ministry opportunities for Cedarbrook. In February we sent a team to work in Center City to start work on a dormitory for Living Witness' Drug Treatment Center. We returned to see if that is a location that we want to continue to build a partnership. (The picture is of me and Pastor Pierre, the director of the treatment program).

I'm not going to try and recount the whole trip. You can read Dave's blog for that...along with some pictures. I'd just like to say that you can a learn a lot in 48 hours! We met with three pastors, a restaurant owner (Craig Cuccia at the Cafe Reconcile) and heard from Dr. John Perkins. They all seemed to have one message: don't just transform lives, transform communities.

We witnessed God's redemptive plan for not only New Orleans but potentially our whole country. God is using the Katrina disaster to rally the church to become what it was always meant to be, a tranformational community. People are going down to New Orleans to help with Katrina Aid and returning to their own towns with a vision for how they can bring renewal there too. So Katrina Aid is really a two edged sword (in a good way)...people help New Orleans recover and then go home to duplicate what they did there. Only God could bring life out of the death of Katrina.
I'm personally challenged to learn all I can about how to transform a community. John Perkins spoke last Wednesday at Castle Rock Church about the vision in Zechariah 8. It speaks of a community where God is so evident that people want to know who this God is. They will come to believers and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.' Zechariah 8:23
That's happening in Center City. I went to New Orleans looking for how we could help them. But now I want to return because I think they will help us to move beyond church as usual to become a place where people are not only transformed but bound together with others to become a corporate transforming agent here in Wisconsin. Maybe you'd like to join us.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Youth Pastor Search: Cedarbrook Distinctives

This post is intended for youth candidates but anyone new to Cedarbrook will appreciate the info.

As I said in my previous post, we are looking for a youth pastor who shares our approach to ministry. I never think of our approach as different, but people tell me that Cedarbrook is very different. I guess you either love it or not. So, let me list a few things that we value in the way we do ministry:
  • Being normal. We try to eliminate religious jargon from our talk. Cedarbrook is full of a wide variety of people from various church and non-church backgrounds. Religous words that mean something to one mean nothing to another and are offensive to yet others. You can love Jesus without peppering your sentences with "God told me this" and "hallelujah". We don't want people to recognize us for our religiosity but our Christ-like character and deeds.
  • Encouraging dialogue. I think the church has missed a huge opportunity to engage culture by being so strong about what we believe. Do you ever notice how Christians sponsor "debates" instead of "dialogues". The words alone are telling! "Debate" says we are right and the opposition is wrong. In sermons and conversations, we try to stimulate dialogue then let the Holy Spirit do the rest. We might openly engage people that embrace views that are rejected by the church at large. In doing so, we are not embracing their ideas. We are embracing the person, telling them, "We value you. You are important to me and God. We may not agree with your thinking, but we know that you are passionate and we appreciate that passion."
  • Women are equal in both theory and practice. It's embarrassing to me in the 21st century to even mention this. Every church talks about women being equal to men but many don't practice it. At Cedarbrook women function in every role that men do in the church. We have women elders and pastors. I've worked in churches with and without women in leadership. I would never go back to the old way.
  • Breaking down barriers to meeting God. Once you develop an eye for it, there are many things that church people do to make newcomers FEEL like outsiders. There is a strong "us/them" culture that insiders don't see but newcomers sense a mile away. And if people feel put off by church they are hearing that God doesn't want them either. The list is too long to mention here but it's a common discussion among staff to be on the guard for this behavior.
  • Look for the win-win. It's easy to point out the bad. That makes you look so good! But we believe that there are better ways to approach most issues. How can we affirm the good in others, ignore the bad (if possible) and eventually win them over to seek a better way? That's the challenge.
  • Look for what we share in common with others. Along the lines of a "win/win", we believe we share more in common with the unchurched than we often care to admit. Rather than pointing out the differences, why not talk about all that we share in common, the weakness, the failure, the joy and sorrows of life, the hopes and dreams, etc? We want to be building bridges and not walls.
  • Being real. I think churches are much more inviting when we drop the charade and just tell people how it is...we've got our issues but we are in process, moving toward God by following Jesus. True community is developed in brokenness, not in people only showing their best side.
  • Being consistent. The only way to make our faith credible to others (not to mention God) is if we let our faith impact EVERY aspect of our lives. When people see that our faith affects the way we spend our time, the way we treat people, the way we invest our money and the way we invest our talents, they see what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus. That says something. But when they simply hear a bunch of talk and religious activity, it turns them off and sends them away.

You can probably sense that these values are a reaction to something. That's true. Many of us, myself included, have come out of churches that left us feeling empty and disappointed. They were like the sizzle without the steak...saying the right words with little depth of conviction. To make things worse, religious words were a thin veil for the very same small minded, critical thinking that we saw in the world.

At Cedarbrook, we are trying our best to walk away from that kind of church and offer something real and inviting. That's why we follow our name with "come and be refreshed". We are far from perfect. We fall into many of the same traps I've spoken against. But we are actively working at trying to do church in a new way to please God and be inviting to those who might want to join us.

To learn more about the Cedarbrook vision I encourage you to read through some of my blogs, especially the series called "Why I Don't Like Church". Also, go to our website and read my sermons under Sermons & More>>Past Sermons>>Cedarbrook Vision. Just reading the summary of these sermons will tell you a lot about who we are.

Youth Pastor Search

Once you stop blogging, it's hard to start again! I guess I've been busy screening youth pastor candidates so let me talk about that journey.

The history is that after a three year run, our previous youth pastor (Andre) resigned. He's currently working as an engineer...what he went to school for. Since last September, Brad Kehn has graciously stepped up to be our interim pastor. Brad works full time as the Director of Youth Alive, a ministry to youth ministries (offering camps and training). Brad has added his Cedarbrook duties to his already full plate. We tried to hire someone last summer but we didn't find the right match (lots of candidates). Now we've resumed our search. We aren't just looking for anyone to fill the slot. We want someone who can build on the foundation that we have for youth as well as fit in with our somewhat different approach to church.

It's interesting to review the resumes because so many of the candidate's work history (75%) stops 1-3 years ago. For one reason or another, they were fired or quit and they have been unable to find another position. That makes me uncomfortable...hiring someone with a failed experience...but that's the nature of the beast. Youth pastors often go into a church setting, expected to create a thriving ministry but they get caught in an unfriendly church political environment with unrealistic expectations on them...or...they have little experience and can't juggle all the balls expected of a minister. Either way, they end up on the street, wounded, disillusioned and looking for a new home. The average stay for a youth pastor is 1.5 years!

It's also hard for me as I review resumes because I'm looking for someone who matches our ministry philosophy but realistically, these are young people who are still in process. They don't know what they believe for sure. And that's probably another reason that they fail. They take a position thinking that they agree with the church on everything but then their thinking evolves and they move away from what the church wants.

Speed-interviewing? Frustrated with a pile of resumes that seem more or less the same, I came up with an idea. You've probably heard of speed-dating. I decided to do speed-interviewing. Rather than spend time emailing and calling candidates, trying to narrow down the pile, I decided to invite them to visit a Sunday service and meet with me and a few leaders briefly. It's not an interview really. It's just a "meet and greet" time to help both parties decide if there is any chemistry. We haven't done this yet but I'm in the process of inviting people in April. I'm hopeful that it will bring clarity to a very muddy process.

I hope to report that we've found the perfect candidate yet this spring!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Teaching versus Preaching the Bible

This coming Monday (March 19th) I'm going to start teaching the book of Romans from the New Testament. I can't believe it's taken me four years to get to a place where I have the time to do this. I love teaching, especially the Bible.

Did you know that teaching and preaching the Bible are two different things? At least it is for me. On Sundays I preach. I study what the Bible has to say on a topic and my goal is to make one point that you can take home and apply. I bring "pre-digested" information that is easily understandable (well, that's the goal!) and immediately applicable. It really answers the practical question: How does God want me to live my life?

But when I teach the Bible, I have different goals. I want to teach YOU how to do what I do every week with my sermon. I work to give you the tools to digest what you read and apply the information to your life. When you walk out of a "class" you are loaded with information, not to apply that week, but to return to over and over again as a resource throughout your life.

When I first decided to follow Jesus I read and studied the Bible all the time. I was like a sponge. But now, 30 years later, all that knowledge is something that I'm still processing and dissecting and learning how to apply to my life (and helping others do the same).

I think we all need both teaching and preaching. We need to be motivated regarding what to do right now, but we all need to know how to study the Bible for ourselves so God can speak to us through his word whenever he wants to.

My class on Romans will run for eight weeks (Mondays, 7 - 8:30pm at the Cedarbrook Center in the Shops Off Broadway Mall). I hope to run it for 8 weeks, take a few weeks off and run another 8 weeks. So if you are reading this months from now, there's a good chance that I'm still teaching on Monday night. I'll hope you'll join me. Once you get ahold of what the Bible is saying, it tends to get ahold of you!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Waking the Dead

After having "Waking the Dead" recommended to me numerous times I finally broke down and bought the book. Eldredge does a good job, as always (Wild at Heart, Journey to Desire, Sacred Romance) of stirring your passion and giving you a glimpse of what life could and should be like.

He starts by quoting Ireneus (early church leader) who said, "God's glory is man fully alive." In other words, the greatness of God is best manifested when you and I live our lives to the fullest.

Hmmmm. What does THAT look like? And how would we even know what to shoot for?

It reminds me of taking an air capacity test once for my asthma. The doctor said that on my best day I only used 70% of my lung capacity. I was shocked. Did he mean to tell me that most people have another 30% of lung capacity to feed their system with oxygen! ? I FELT normal but I was obviously functioning far below what others do.

Kinda makes you wonder about life in general. Maybe we are functioning far below what we were created for but don't know it. Maybe we are missing something. And that's what Eldredge is out to help us get back.

Stay tuned. I hope to pass along some of his insights as I go along.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fifth Team Heads to New Orleans

This past year we've been working at developing a culture of service. I think faith makes a lot more sense to people when it is more than a set of beliefs but a lifestyle that benefits others. After all, Jesus didn't come and start a school! He came and impacted lives in practical ways.

Today we sent off our fifth team to help with the Katrina Relief. Dave Johnson is heading this up along with another 15 people from Cedarbrook. If you want to keep track of their progress please click the link. Or see pictures of where they'll be working. They'd appreciate your prayers!

Thanks to those who gave $8,000 for their trip!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Power of Words

I'm enjoying a daily reflection that I receive from via email. It's nice to pass on someone else's inspiration when I'm not feeling particularly inspired myself!

Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, "Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me," but most of all, "buy me." With so many words around us, we quickly say: "Well, they're just words." Thus, words have lost much of their power.Still, the word has the power to create.

When God speaks, God creates. When God says, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, "I love you," and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, "I hate you," we can destroy another person. Let's watch our words.

Henri Nouwen from Bread for the Journey

Friday, February 02, 2007

Reflections on Turning 50

Lisa and I had our pictures taken this week for the church directory. Maybe it was the lighting but I could see more of my scalp through my hair than ever before. When it came time to decide if we just wanted the free picture or buy additional copies, the free one was more than enough! As another 50+ friend of mine said, "Why do I want to show people how old I am?"

Other than the mirror not being nearly so flattering any more, I enjoy my "coming of age". I came across a new view of what it means to be "over the hill" that I could relate to and want to pass on to you as well.

On the Journey To Aging Gracefully

I turned fifty last month, "over the hill" as many cards declared. In the months leading up to my birthday, I was puzzled by the thought of turning fifty: How could this have happened? I do not feel like I am fifty. Gradually, with reflection on the experiences of my life and all the learning that has come from those experiences, my focus turned to the wisdom that has come from fifty years of living. Yes, I am "over the hill" of trying to earn love instead of accepting the grace of unconditional love; "over the hill" of worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of me instead of delighting in being me; "over the hill" of trying to save the world, learning that "being with" is more important than doing.

My aching knees, greying hair and need for reading glasses cannot be denied as parts of the aging process. They are proof that I have grown up, but now I desire to grow down, to grow deeper, into greater communion with God and with the people in my life. Most of life's lessons, like those mentioned above, come to me over and over again, each time in a deeper, more meaningful way. The one that is most prominent for me at fifty is that relationships are the key to a fruitful life. I look forward to learning more about life and love, fruitfulness and joy, as I continue on the journey "over the hill" towards sixty.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Nouwen on Community

I've always appreciated the simplicity yet profound thinking of Henri Nouwen. Here he gets to the heart of a value at Cedarbrook: community.

The word
community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naiveté. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not "How can we make community?" but "How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?"

Community so often takes a backset to our self interests. Sometimes even to our "passion for community", if you can understand that. Our agenda, even for good things like community, can keep us from truly loving one another.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thinking About...anger and forgiveness

I have two other blogs; one on and one on that deals with finding healing for your emotional hurts. Before Christmas I blogged about shame and self-worth. I've just started a new series on anger and forgiveness. You can pick up this discussion here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Movie Review: We are Marshall!

Now that the holidays and vacations are over I can resume my blog.

I want to recommend a movie to you. About the only time I go to the theatre is when I hang out with my kids. The other night we went to "We are Marshall!". It wasn't by choice as much as it was the lesser of evils from a small selection of movies. I was with my wife and two daughters and seeing a football movie wasn't high on their list. Plus I hadn't read any great reviews on the show.

But we were all pleasantly surprised. I'm always attracted to movies that make you think and understand humanity better. I can handle slow action if I'm learning something. So, if you are like me, you'll like "We are Marshall!". The movie chronicles what happened to a town, a team and individuals after the Marshall University football team died in a plane crash. It's really a study in grief recovery. About six different people embody the different responses that we typically have to loss.

Maybe it was because it was a true story (not BASED on a true story) that I found myself choking back tears on and off through the entire time (every time they chanted, WE ARE - MARSHALL! - it got to me - a shout of determination in the face of tragic loss). It wasn't hard to put myself in the shoes of various people, maybe because I live in a small town and have college age children. Plus the new team coach has somewhat of a pastoral role as he shepherds the town through their pain in a simple, ala "Columbo", manner.

There's enough football in the movie to keep guys involved and enough emotion to keep women involved. I found it a good mix but some guys might want more football. If you want a good look at how we deal with loss and move on, plus a good ol' fashion come from behind underdog movie, "We are Marshall!" might be what you are looking for.