Thanks Dad

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1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

As many of you know this last month Bert Johnson, my dad, died.  I wanted to share a few thoughts about my dad and his place in my life and faith.

The scripture from Psalm 1 begins the story of my dad, a man who lived his faith.  In a way I would like to show you a few slides of my dad’s life, (we have boxes of family slides.)

The first slide is one of him surrounded by his 5 boys.  My dad loved to build life-long memories and connections in his family.  He had a close family even though his dad died when  he was just 12 years old.  He wanted to make that closeness happen for us as we grew up.  Mom and Dad made a home for their five boys and it was open to anyone and everyone.

And in making that home, Dad was up for most anything.  Whether it was flooding the back yard for an ice rink, building the best tree house in the neighborhood or letting us build a snow slide off the garage roof (even though after a couple seasons we had to  reroof  it.)  Some of our best times were traveling the country pulling our pop-up tent camper.  Dad loved to spend time with us.  Nothing was too far out of the box for Dad.

The second slide has Dad fixing and restoring a Model A Truck with his boys in tow.  Dad loved creating and restoring, it was his engineering/tinkering side.  I was probably most influenced  by this because I still  spend so much time tinkering and creating.  Why buy something if you can make it or fix it.  Dad taught us to problem solve but that didn’t mean I always learned well.

Sue laughs with me when we remember the time  I took apart her good electric typewriter to fix a problem and I couldn’t figure out how to put all those pieces back together again.  We had to throw it out.

All of his fixing projects; cars, lawn mowers, outboard motors, were his tools for building Godly character into our lives.  I don’t think I fully understood  that until I raised my own three girls.

But fixing things were only a small part of his interests.  People were his first love.  He  would never give up on anyone or any relationship.  In his mind all could be made whole by God’s healing power.  That is probably why I have a hard time  giving up on a person or relationship.

The final slide is of Dad and his family worshipping at church. Faith in Christ was the most important  part of my father’s life.  He loved the Lord, and was committed to help people find Jesus.  Whether it was men who worked for him at Honeywell or neighbors who lived down the street, he cared and loved so they might see the love of Jesus.  Whether it was helping plant a church or being a surrogate father for more than a few extra boys, it was important for dad to live it. I saw this faith lived out most when life in the church was at it’s worst.

In the late 1980’s when Dad was church chairman it was found out that our pastor had been sexually abusing youth for years.  And if that wasn’t enough he found out two of his own sons were abused by the man he called his pastor, confidant and friend.  No one would have blamed him if he would have left the church and become completely disillusioned in his faith, but he didn’t.  He continued to keep the vision of Christ and the church front and center.  He knew that the ministry of Christ was bigger than any man’s sin.  Was it easy?  No, there were many years of pain.  In his last 20 years, because of the abuse, his immediate family would not be together at a family gathering until the day of his funeral. In all the struggle he redirected his pain to reach out to many of the abused kids, to help them cope with their pain and try to bring healing.

It’s one thing to live your faith when everything is smooth sailing, it’s quite another in the midst of great pain.  Dad lived a deep  faith and that has been an inspiration to me.

So a quick reverse on the slides.  Dad was a family builder, a creator/restorer and a man of faith.  As a young man, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to have my dad. We didn’t always see eye to eye.  But as a father and grandfather myself, I want to continue in his foot steps.  In fact I would encourage all of us to assess the legacy of faith we would like to leave to our family and community.  It’s never too late to let Christ recreate your life and begin again.  Even Dad let Christ restore his broken heart.  So be blessed as a person who delights in the law, who brings fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither.  My father would celebrate with you and be so proud.

Keith, my younger brother, shared from his heart at Dad’s funeral and summed up his impact on us; he shared,

“Something I have seen quite often in my ministry both in Montana and in Africa are the scars left behind by fathers. Sons who never heard their father say, “I love you.”  Daughters whose dads never hugged them.  Children whose parents didn’t care to come to the game or sit at the choir concert. Children who never heard the words, “I’m so proud of you.”

I was not one of those.  He wasn’t afraid to hug, or even kiss me throughout my life.  Oh, there were times when I’d push him away, especially in Junior High School, but being a man didn’t preclude physical contact for him. Without hesitation, he’d say, “I’m so proud of you,” or “I love you.”

In Keith’s final words he said, “So there was a lot to my dad.  But let me end with words he so often said to us, his children;  I’m so proud of you Dad, and I love you.”

Thanks Dad.

Pastor Craig


A Day for Thanksgiving

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Have you ever had to sing a song when your heart wasn’t in it?

Most remember a day when you were suppose to sing:

“This is the day, (this is the day) that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made). We will rejoice, (we will rejoice) and be glad in it, (and be glad it )”

and you had one of the worse days of your life.

When everything that could go wrong went wrong. Your new car stalled on the road 20 miles from home. You have just picked up the worse cold in modern history. Your model son just spent the last week in detention. Your check bounced. Your supper burned. Your joints hurt.  And to top it off, your prize milk cow Bessie just quit giving milk.

Then you may ask, what will I do if the  really tough events of death and illness and financial ruin hit me?

Some would vote to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over their head.  Some would face it head on.  While  others might be tempted to just run somewhere, anywhere.

Some songs  have a solution:

“When the dog barks, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad; I simply remember my favorite things.”

Some advertisers have the only answer.  They tell you to, take this, buy this, drink this and your life will go better.  Others say it’s all about attitude.  It is true that our attitude is important but we cannot depend on our attitude, our ability to think positively.  Many situations are overwhelming and no simple instruction to “smile” or “hang in there” will do. What will carry us through is not our attitudes and abilities but our dependence on an eternal, loving and all powerful God.

George Everett Ross wrote these words:

“I have served in the ministry thirty years, almost 31.  I have come to understand that there are two kinds of faith. One says “if” and the other says “though.”  One says “If everything goes well, if my life is prosperous, if I’m happy, if no one I love dies, if I’m successful, I will believe in God and say my prayers and go to the church and give what I can afford.” The other says though the cause of evil prosper, though I sweat in Gethsemane, though I must drink my cup at Calvary-nevertheless, precisely then, I will trust the Lord who made me.  So Job cries: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

It is our dependence on God that will allow us to move forward with confidence even in the toughest situations.   Don’t put on a fake, plastered smile and walk around pretending. But grab on to an authentic life, guided by and depending on Jesus Christ who can help you deal with the struggles in life with a heart of thanksgiving.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13,
”I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it means to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

He continued in his letter to the church at Thessalonica,  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had figured out the secret of living with victory. It is living dependent on Jesus with joy, prayer, and thankfulness.

Take time this month to thank God for his many blessings.  Remember, God is ready, in all situations, to bring glory to His name through your life.  When you are around your dinner table, at your office, in your car (eyes open, hands on the wheel) ask God to help you make a growing list of what God is doing in your life; whether easy or hard, and be thankful.  Then sing the verse one more time, with  feeling.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118: 24

Have a great month!

Pastor Craig


Seek The Lord

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Remember that great game you used to play as a kid. It’s pitch black outside, no moon, no lights, no nothing.  Mike is it, his head is down as  he counts quickly to 200.  When he finally gets there, sometimes counting by fives, he yells, “Here I come ready or not.”  Off he goes searching for us  as we hide in the grass, behind a tree or in the shed.  The only thing he is armed with is “the Flashlight “.  Our goal is to get to the dead tree stump, before the dreaded beam of light hits us, and we are declared “gotten.”  Mike’s goal is to find us, so he “seeketh diligently.”  He never gives up and he’s checking every possible location.  He looks up in the tree, under the shed, in the tall grass.  He knows that his friends are never afraid to hide anywhere; spiders, worms, snakes, cobwebs and all.  He is hoping that he finds his buddies before they make their way to the stump.  If you watched him     (which was hard because it was dark) you would see the complete dedicated pursuit in his eyes. He was passionate about his mission.

Just as Mike was into seeking his friends, it is my prayer that we will be just as passionate about seeking God. What is great about seeking God is, he is not hiding. In fact, he gives us the promise in Jeremiah 29:13 ,

“You will seek me and find me; when you  seek me with all of your heart.”

Seeking God comes as we dig into his word, as we spend time with him in our quiet devotions, as we worship and listen to him. As we seek we get to know him better and understand his great love and plan for each of us. I hope you will plug into a Bible study this fall or a Community Group this winter with a host of fellow seekers. It’s also not too late to read through the Bible in 9 months with many in the church.  The schedules are available at the Welcome Center.  Remember as you seek Him, God promises that you will find him.

In Christ’s Love

Pastor  Craig


Runners take your mark, Get set, Bang!

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So began each of the races that Usain Bolt won.  He peaked a great interest in me and half the world because of his ability to run like the wind.  I have an even greater interest because last time we were in Kingston at Jamaica Christian Boys Home we drove by his training field.  I also spent quite a bit of time with the staff at the home discussing which country had the fastest runners.

Whatever country you were cheering for you had to admit that  Bolt is fast!

But his speed isn’t what I want to write  about.  I want to  remind us all of what was common to all the runners in the race.  Simply stated they entered the race.  They signed in and they ran.

I remembered a few Olympic games  ago when the story broke about an Olympic athlete who missed their event.  They had trained hard and even had a fantastic qualifying time but when it really mattered they missed the race.  You cannot win or even have a chance to win if you do not enter the race.  My challenge to you this fall is to get in the race.

Jesus Christ has called us all as his followers to get into the race.  Too often we love to train and gain as much biblical knowledge as possible. We even travel to the  place of the great race but we are satisfied  just sitting in the stand and cheering every body else on.  Jesus Christ did not call us to cheer but to  run the race.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This fall I encourage everyone to get in the race and run strong.  There are opportunities to serve at church and in the community.  It might be with children or with adults.  It might be with small groups or in the choir.  It might be with coaching or with helping someone learning to read. Take the time to decide where to serve and  join in.  There is much to do and when we are on the track to revitalization we need everyone who’s on the team to run with all they have.

~Pastor Craig


Time to Soar

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Let me introduce you to Volta. Volta is a bald eagle that lives  at the Alaskan Rapture Center in Sitka, Alaska. This center helps injured birds get back to the wild. Volta, however, is a permanent resident.

Volta had a life changing accident. He flew into a power line in 1992 and suffered a concussion, electrocution and several broken bones. The coracoid, a small bone in his shoulder, much like our collar bone, was destroyed in the collision. It’s the  bone that is critical for gaining lift in flight, and without it Volta cannot take flight from the ground or a perch.

This summer Sue and I had the privilege of visiting this magnificent bird. As I saw this bird it saddened me. I knew this was a beautiful bald eagle; it looked like a eagle, it strutted like an eagle, and it ate and drank like an eagle  but  all it did all day was sit on its perch or walk around it’s large cage. Something was wrong, it was suppose to fly. It could not soar high  in the air, catching the next breeze like it was created to do. As I thought about Volta  and eagles, a few verses from  Isaiah 40 came to mind..

29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

What do eagles do? Isaiah tells us they soar. It is not natural for them to only sit on a perch.  How about you and me?

What do we do, as  followers of Jesus? If soaring is the natural thing for eagles to do,  what is natural for Christians to do. What should describe our lives. The prophet Isaiah tells us  that we should do the same thing, we  soar. And it comes from putting our hope in the Lord. Letting God and God alone direct our lives. Obviously he is not talking about taking wing above the Upsala water tower. We are talking about living fully in Christ and receiving the abundant life (John 10:10) from Christ.

Sometimes we are not able to soar in our faith. Like Volta’s destroyed coracoid bone, something small keeps us from giving our whole life to Jesus Christ. It keeps us from fully putting  our hope in the Lord.

Even though the Rapture Center could not repair Volta’s coracoid and help him fly again God can heal, forgive or remove what is keeping us from soaring in faith.  Let’s put ourselves in the care of the great healer and begin  to soar, once again, seeing the world as God sees it.

Pastor Craig


Pivot Point

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I want to invite you  to join us each week this summer for great worship and the Word. We are going to walk through the personal stories of great men and women leaders in the Bible. Stories of the men and women whom God selected to accomplish something extraordinary.

What especially intrigues me is the pivot point for each individual. The point when God meets with each person and calls them into service. When he invites them to make a difference, carry out a mission or lead a people to a new land.

Much like a child running by and grabbing a pole and swinging in a new direction, God gives us pivot points in our lives when we can see life  moving in a whole new direction. We began last Sunday with a look at Moses and his call to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. His pivot point came at the burning bush. Scripture tells the detailed story of his whole discussion with God that led him and his brother Aaron to try and convince the Pharaoh to let the  people of Israel go.

I encourage each of you to watch and listen to what God is wanting to say to you. It may be at camp, at worship, in devotions or at any time during the day. Remember he will give you all the power you need to accomplish his call.

We will also have the opportunity to host three of our missionaries this summer. Hearing their pivot point stories may open your eyes to new callings in your life. Be open and ready to what God has in your life.

Pastor Craig


Game On!

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Grampa, do you want to play?

Benjamin and Caleb had been sitting and playing on the I-pad as they waited for Sue and I to arrive at their home.  Their mom limits their game time, much to their dismay.  “What are you playing?” I asked. “Angry Birds,” they replied, in unison.  I was shocked.  My sweet grandsons  were playing a game called “Angry Birds.” What is the world coming to.  I had heard of “Angry Birds” but I had never played it.  I preach against anger.  “We can teach you Grampa Craig.”  “OK,” I said, “I’m up for anything.”  After a few moments of training by my 6 and 4 year old teachers I was hooked.

There I sat shooting angry birds with a sling shot, knocking down buildings and killing pigs for the next half hour. It certainly grabbed my attention and when I wanted to show Sue how good I was at killing pigs, she just rolled her eyes.

It’s amazing what will  entertain us in this generation. After a little research about this game I  was fascinated by how much time this game is actually played.

In total, this game notches up 200 million minutes of play time every day, which is close to the number of minutes viewers in the United States spend watching the average prime-time television programs. When I heard that, I wondered, “What is going on in our world?”  How have we moved so far that gaming and other media has taken over our lives and we don’t think anything of it.

As we finish this school year and move into the summer, I encourage us to assess how much time we are or will be, spending on gaming, movies, social media, or TV. It can be a major issue whether we are 6 or 106.

It’s time to ask the question, “Is there something else I could be doing?” There are so many good activities and places to serve that  we  could  make a big impact in the world.  If we took even half of the time we spend in media and gave it to our families, friends, a person in need, the church, Bible Camps or community, I’m convinced we would greatly change our world.

I have no clue how much time you spend with media and I’ll bet many of you don’t know either. It has become so much a part of everyday life that we do it without thinking.  I challenge you to keep records for a while, (ask your spouse or parents, they probably already have an idea.) then ask yourself what would God want me to do with this time.  Pray about  it and seek the Lord.  As Christians we are called to be good stewards of time as well as money.  So let’s hear the call of God, invest our time well and see what God will do with it.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  ~Colossians 3:17

Pastor Craig


View from the Balcony

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It was  time once again to climb into the church balcony (if we had one) to see the big picture of our church. On March 17 we had the opportunity to host a Veritas workshop. Jon Kramka, from the Northwest Conference of the Covenant Church led this special seminar to help  us talk openly about our current ministry and vision. It helped to understand what it would take for us to be a healthy missional church.

In the afternoon Jon shared that in our fast moving culture, churches must revision every three to five years.  As we listened and then shared, it was obvious that many felt that our first priority should be to establish a new unified vision for the church. The leadership team is moving forward with that in mind.

Where do we go from here?

The first step in the pathway to vitality  is that we  pray. As we seek to set our new vision we know that it must come from listening  hard to God. The month of April has been designated as the month to pray for our new vision. We have opportunities to pray each week  on Sunday morning from 9:15—9:50 AM and Wednesday night  from 7:00 to 7:30 PM. There will also be a special 24 hour Prayer Vigil during Holy Week. It will begin 8:00 PM Wednesday night and finish 8:00 PM Thursday night. We would like to have individuals and families sign up for one hour time slot. You can pray at home or church.

The second step is for us to prepare our hearts for what God wants to do in and through us. Our Veritas handbook states, “In the parable of the sower (Jesus makes it clear) that the seeds are constant and  the soil is the variable.”  It was a good day of thinking and praying about  what it would take for us to be a healthy missional church.

The “soil,” not the “seed” is the determining factor  in producing an abundant harvest. “While the seed represents the Gospel, the soil represents the condition or capacity of the human heart to receive the message and follow through on the changes that accompany a life surrendered to Christ.” It’s time for each of us to let God prepare our soil, our hearts. The prophet Hosea challenges  us with these words, 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

I encourage all to pray and plow that we may be ready for what God is going to do through his Spirit.

I invite you all to join us in the balcony to take a look to the future.

God bless you,

Pastor Craig.



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Dear Congregation,

I want to invite all of you to join your team of leaders to examine what it means to explore the pathway to  continued vitality as a church. Congregational vitality is a journey of life, energy, passion, discovery, and hope. It is a result of the living God breathing new life into the heart of a congregation. Vitality is the wind of the Spirit…“a rushing wind so wild and strong,” as the old hymn goes. Our role is to raise our sails and catch this wind.

Vitality is nothing less than a spiritual awakening in Christ. It is not about sustaining and maintaining; it’s about thriving, growing, and depending on God to lead us deeper in Christ and further in mission.

We  began a process last summer as we  investigated what it meant to be a Healthy Missional Church.  Now we are ready to  take the next step by hosting a day of Veritas.

On Saturday, March 17 , from 9:30 to 3:30, we will join together to  learn, share truth, dream and listen to the Spirit about the exciting future God wants for us.

Everyone is invited to this  day of Veritas . Veritas means truth telling.  In our day together we explore the four different kinds of churches.  We are able to share what  excites us about our ministry and  also the concerns we have.

This is the  day that lets us pick up a mirror and  take an honest look at what type of a church we are. After determining our current church type we take the opportunity to create the pathway to lead us where we believe God wants us to be.

Rev. John Kramka,  Associate Superintendent  of the Northwest Conference, will be teaching and leading our discussions.  We hope that  all of you  will  set aside March 17 to be a part of the day of exciting discoveries. We truly need every ones input, so please come.

Veritas Schedule:  Saturday , March 17

9:30 – Refreshments and settling in

10:00 – “Where Are We?”  A Time of Discovery

12:00 – Soup & Sandwich Lunch  – table discussion

12:30 – “Where Are We Going?” A Time to Dream

3:30 –  Go home!

We need  a count for  lunch so please sign up at the Veritas table.

Thank You,    Pastor Craig


Jesus, Draw Me Close!

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Ever wondered what it would be like if you deepened your love for your spouse, your family, and friends? When those relationships have built so much into your life that you, simply stated, feel excited, overwhelmed and blessed. When those  primary relationships fill your life with so much joy that you are overflowing with thankfulness. Many of us would ask ,”Where do I sign up?, “How do I get started?” “How much does it cost?”

You and I both know that building close, loving  relationships take time and a personal desire. So it’s not as simple as just signing up or putting down some cash. But if you are desiring close, deep relationships, the answer does have a beginning  and a cost.

It’s my prayer that this coming year we can grow deeper  and closer in our  earthly  relationships. But as we do, we must  begin by seeking a deeper and closer relationship with our God.  J. Oswald Sanders, the leader of China Inland Mission wrote,

“There is a restlessness deep within each of us that compels us to search for the person, the place, the job, the “god” that will fill the void and give us peace. This restlessness drives us to find someone who will love us for who we are, understand our fears and anxieties, affirm our worth, and call our lives into account. To admit our need for and dependence upon God requires humility and vulnerability, which paves the way not only for knowing God, but also for becoming intimate with Him. “Mutual love and confidence are the keys to intimacy ,“ deepening intimacy with God is the outcome of deep desire.”

This year take time to take advantage of all the opportunities to seek a closer, deeper relationship with God.  Get involved in  Sunday worship, special classes, service projects, Bible studies, prayer meetings or retreats. Push the pause button and add a daily quiet time  with the Lord.

All the possibilities started with God seeking you and now you can make the decision to seek a deep and close relationship with Him.

May this prayer of David’s give words to the desires of our heart :

Hear my cry, O God;  Give heed to my prayer.  From the end of the earth  I call to Thee, when my heart is faint;  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings
PSALM 61:1-4

-Pastor Craig