Sunday Shout Out

This is my first Sunday Shout Out in a long time, and it is a very special one. This Sunday Shout Out is to my mother, Judy Vining.

I could give a Sunday Shout Out to my mother for a lot of different reasons. I could write about how she sacrificed and served to raise two children as a single mom. I could write about the warm hospitality that she has extended to hundreds of people over the years. I could write about her career as a nurse serving thousands of women and children living in poverty. I could write about the strong convictions that guide her life.

While all of those would make great posts, this is about something different. This shout out is for the profound things that my mother said to me recently.

First, you need to know a little back ground. A few months ago we discovered that my mother has pancreatic cancer. Since the diagnosis our family has done a lot of researching, praying, planning, and crying. It has been hard, very hard. In a recent visit I was inspired by how she is choosing to face this difficult journey.

This is how my mother is trying to approach each day:

I want to handle the days ahead with grace.

I only know that I have today.

Today, I know that I am loved.

Today, I have people to love.

Today, I can make a difference.

Her words are full of wisdom that all of us would do well to live by.

(Thank you mom for all that you have done for us over the years. We love you. Happy Birthday!)


On Robyn’s 7th Mothers Day:

Seven Lesson I Hope Our Kids Learn From Their Mom.

1. Love God with Your Whole Person
2. Cherish the Wonder of All People
3. Creativity is Liberating
4. Recognize the Positive Things Around You
5. Have Fun by Working Hard
6. You Can Go Beyond the Status Quo
7. Find Yourself by Living Beyond Yourself

Years ago I served at a medium-sized church in a transitional urban neighborhood. There were a number of wonderful people in that congregation. Pat and Dick Franklin are one couple who impacted me. I have often thought that the church, and the world, would be in better shape if we had more people like the Franklins.

Here are some of their traits that I admire:

Thoughtfulness – The Franklins take the call to “love God with their mind” seriously. Dick was a professor at a local state university. Pat certainly had the intellectual capacity for such a role.  They are not into hopping on band wagons or joining witch hunts. Instead, they carefully considered things from a deeply biblical world-view, with confidence that all truth belongs to  God.

Passion – The Franklins prove that a thoughtful faith is not a dead faith. They have a faith that is full of passion. I will never forget seeing Dick with tears streaming down his cheeks listening to a teen talk about a week serving the urban poor.  I will never forget seeing the spark in Pat’s eyes as she guided the Christian Education Committee in discussions about holistic discipleship.

Commitment – Out of their thoughtful and passionate faith, the Franklins live lives of tremendous commitment to the Kingdom of God. They have both served as elders at the church, and on various committees, but their commitment goes even deeper. They do not shy away from being counter-cultural, popular culture or church culture, even when it cost them. For example, they could have a bigger house, fancier cars, or more exotic vacations, but they want to give as much money as possible to God’s work in the world.

I still want to be like Dick and Pat Franklin when I grow up. Please join me. They give the earth a lot more salt and light.

My family has a membership at an amazing fitness center  in metro Milwaukee. The Princeton Club has an outstanding facility, leading-edge equipment, exciting programs, great staff, and admirable leadership. The entire family fits the description of raving Princeton Club fans.

They could get a Sunday Shout Out post just for being such a fantastic club, but they are at the beginning of new campaign that deserves the full attention of the post, and your participation or replication. The Princeton Club has begun a campaign called the Million Pound Challenge.

Here is the Situation:

People need food and exercise to be healthy.

Some people do not have enough food.

Some people have too much food and/ or not enough exercise.

Here is a Solution:

People pledge a number of pounds that they want to loose, or a number of hours that they want to exercise, over the next five months.

The Princeton Club will donate 10 pounds of food to a local food pantry for every pound lost, or hour exercised, in that time.


I just love this idea. It meets some very real needs in the area, hunger and obesity. It also helps broaden the focus of personal fitness beyond self, which I suspect will make it more  fulfilling.

Please join me in shedding a few pounds and getting some food to those in need. My personal goal is losing 10 pounds by the end of May, which the Princeton Club will turn into 100 pounds of food for a local food pantry!!!

If you live in Madison or Milwaukee, sign up here.

If you live elsewhere, do it on your own or start a similar campaign!

Guat Kids

I am on the Pastoral Staff at Elmbrook – a large Christian congregation in southeast Wisconsin

This weekend began our annual Harvestfest.

This is probably my favorite week of the year. In my opinion, it is Elmbrook at her best.

What is Harvestfest?

For me, Harvestfest is a week set aside to discover and celebrate what God is doing around the world. It is a time when the congregation intentionally steps away from focusing on self and turns to Gods wonderful healing mission in the world.

Last year’s focus was on the Middle East. We heard amazing tales of how God was moving to connect with people. Many of the stories challenged our assumptions about God and the people of that region.

Two years ago the focus was on Urban Poverty. While we looked at national and international cities, we also took a deep look at Milwaukee. Many in the congregation began to realize the challenges of urban poverty here.

This year’s Harvestfest Theme is Children at Risk. The scripture used for the week, at least on the promotional materials, is Psalm 10:17-18.

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
so mere people can no longer terrify them.

This year’s Harvestfest promises to be another challenging and inspiring week with both global and local implications.

Please join us for a night of even the full week!

For more information about Harvest Fest, or to follow the blog, sessions, and workshops, follow the link below:

Mountain_climbing_with_ropeI get pretty excited at the thought of changing the world. I love the thought of seeing things that are not right in the systems and structures of society being made right. It sounds so exciting, so needed, and so big!

It is a little more sobering to realize that an important piece of societal change is individual change. Societies are afterall made up of individuals. The world will not be changed without more individuals being changed. I am one of those individuals who needs to be changed.

That does not sound nearly as exciting as changing the world.

Over the past few months, I have had a number of people confide in me that they are taking steps to make needed changes in their lives. Some of them are facing the damage done by other people. Some of them are owning up to their own long string of destructive choices. Some of them are not even sure of what the roots of the problems are, but they recognize that there are problems that need addressed. They are moving toward healing.

I will not name names, and I am sure that there are many more out there, but I do want to applaud my friends who are on the difficult journey to wellness. I admire your courage and strength.

Thank you for making this world a better place.

dad with us at lake

My Dad turned 65 yesterday.
He spent the day winning a national championship 10K race for his new age group.

His time was actually fast enough that he would have won his previous age group (60+).
Even more impressive.

A few years ago, my dad, who is a life-long runner, had some health issues that caused him to wonder if he would ever run again.
That makes the championship incredible.

Earlier this year, my dad had a health diagnosis that caused us to fear that he would not make it to this birthday.
This national 10K championship is simply unbelievable.

I have always been proud of my dad’s running abilities. Some of my earliest memories are racing him on a track, watching him at a race, and looking at his running trophies.

However, this latest victory showed much more than an ability to run fast for a long period of time. This win was about perseverance and overcoming obstacles. While my dad did not really control the progressionof his latest health challange, he did have the option of pressing forward into life or retreating in the face adversity. My dad chose to face the brokeness of the situation and make the most of the life in front of him.

I admire that courage – regardless of what place he finished in the race.

I only wonder when he will slow down enough so that I can beat him in a 10K.

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