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Archive for October, 2013

Dean Hartley RIP


We started this blog to show the connections that we have up here in the North Country and how are paths “cross” under the “Cross”.  Dean Hartley first got the inclination to be a Pastor when he was in Willmar Minnesota.  Willmar is no stranger to these pages either.  We covered the tornado and the recovery.  Dean passed away unexpectedly and the shock will be around awhile.  As in all things we are always under the Cross and we live in the promises of Christ.  Dean preached the payment that Christ made for sins and the new life that we have in his name every Sunday.  He lived that new life and he died as one who wanted that life for all.

Funeral Services will be held 10:00 A.M. Saturday, November 2nd at the Underwood School Gymnasium with Rev. Dr. James A. Baneck officiating.  Interment will take place in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Edgeley, ND.

Visitation will be from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM Friday at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Underwood. ND. A prayer service will be held at 7:00 PM Friday at the church. Visitation will continue one hour before services Saturday at the school.

Dean was born April 12, 1957 in Gackle, ND to Harold & Liane (Elhard) Hartley.  He graduated from Jud High School in 1975.  In October 1975, Dean entered the U.S. Air Force where he served for 6 years.  On June 18, 1983, he was united in marriage to Susan Ross at the Zion Lutheran Church in Edgeley, ND.

Dean worked several years in office equipment repair in the Willmar, MN area until he felt a gentle but firm calling into the ministry.  He then went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Concordia College of St. Paul, MN in 1997 and his Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary of St. Louis, MO in 2001.

Dean’s first ministry call was to the dual parish of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Underwood and Trinity Lutheran Church of rural Pick City, ND.  His third parish, St. John Lutheran Church of McClusky, was recently included and the parishes became known as the “Highway 200 Lutherans”.

Anyone who met Dean knew he was full of life and contained a passion for sharing Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  Dean is now celebrating with his Heavenly Father.  It is those of us left behind that will miss him the most.

He is survived by his wife, Sue Hartley of Underwood;  one son, Ross (Meghan) Hartley of Mandan;  his mother, Liane Hartley of Jamestown;  one sister, Dori Nordstrom of St. Francis, MN;  three brothers, Dale (Chris) Hartley of Anderson, IN, Dan (Sharon) Hartley of West Fargo, & Dewey (Trudy) Hartley of Farmington, MN;  along with numerous nieces and nephews.

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Carol and All Saints

All SaintsI wrote a couple of days ago about Carol Voecks and her impact on my life.  Her Pastor was Pastor Chepulis and he is a very good preacher.  This is a portion of the sermon that he delivered for Carol and for all of us.  All Saints Sunday is an important day in our church.  It is a day of remembrance and bitter sweet for many.  Here is a portion of Pastors message.


In a couple of days the Church will celebrate All Saints’ Day.  Carol is what a saint of God looks like.  They’re not great or mighty people.  They don’t do flashy miracles.  They don’t buy their way into heaven.  In the eyes of some, they’re weak and unassuming, suffering and hurting.  But blessed are the poor, the meek, the lowly for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  They live by faith and their reward isn’t on earth.  God’s saints are counted holy, innocent, and righteous for Jesus’ sake where it counts: in the eyes of God.  They receive all Christ’s benefits, are made His brothers and sisters, through faith in Jesus’ work of salvation in His cross and empty tomb.

We will see Carol again.  For just as the Jesus was raised from the dead, so will He come and raise Carol’s body from her sleep.  Her soul, now, is with the Lord in Paradise, but on the last day, when Christ returns in glory, He will raise Carol’s body so that she will live forever, with a body that will never suffer pain or anguish again.  On that day, He will call out to her, “Carol, wake up.  It’s time to go home, for you are one of mine.”

The Lord claimed Carol in her baptism, He remembered her, He has redeemed her.  She is the Lord’s and His promises will go answered.  Until that time, we look to the horizon for His coming.  What a glorious day that will be!  Reunion.  Laughter.  Joy.  Take heart, have hope, the Day of our Lord is closer than it once was.  Amen.

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Measuring Mission Returns.



What are appropriate questions to ask about Mission Projects?  I can imagine some over officious lout out there asking if we are doing good work in Africa why are the children at a Project 24 Center flashing gang signs?

This from an article written in 1998.  Much of it could have been written today.  It raised the question to me that we have been asking for a few years now since LCMS World Mission was changed to the Office of International Mission.  How do we measure success?  What is a failure and why?  The author of this article says it well, “however intangible (or sometimes inappropriate) it might be to attempt to measure missions returns, the giver today wants to see what he stands behind”.

The congregant today views himself as something akin to an investor as well. As such, he is less likely to be content by giving liberally to a national headquarters with no discretion as to how the money will be spent. More relevant to the investor analogy, he has no way to measure his “return” on the investment. However intangible (or sometimes inappropriate) it might be to attempt to measure missions returns, the giver today wants to see what he stands behind. Whether it is an individual, a family, a project or a team, all provide more assessable results than national headquarters.

Yet we have to try.  What would be good measuring stick?  Baptisms?  Church plants?  Let’s take baptisms.  In some areas if you take the amount of money invested in the field and add up the baptism each child baptized cost $250,000.    Is that a proper measurement.  Church plants?  In some areas we have none.  We are having issues with our Project 24 Centers.  Is building them enough?  Do they have to function under an American standard or a Kenyan standard.  Is a minimum standard or how do we measure that?  Whose in charge of them, the Kenyans or one of us rubes over hear that think we know what we are doing?  These are good questions even if I think they are inappropriate.

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Carol Voecks RIP

Carol VoecksCarol Voecks was one of those people that slips into your life so quietly that when they slip out again you barely notice. At least for a while.  Their unassuming nature makes a statement in your life that is permanent.

I met her at an LWML function what seems like a hundred years ago and she  was interested in Biomedical Ethics and a presentation that I had made.  This was probably in the 80’s.  I had started writing and talking about Bioethics and the handicapped after a presentation I attended in San Francisco that was sponsored by U.C. Berkeley.  Much of it was theoretical at that time but many of the things that we talked about in fertility issues, death panels, using the human genome for birth control and the vulnerability of the handicapped and the aged to governments and politicians that want to provide everyone with “health care” are coming frightening true or have already happened.  This led to my doing presentations at St. Francis hospital in Hawaii which at that time was pioneering work in pastoral care and bioethics across cultural lines.  Carol would phase in an out of my life as I wrote articles for the ND District supplement of the Lutheran Witness on bioethics and as she worked for caring for her husband who had been diagnosed with MS.  Although I an still interested in medical ethics I have stopped the intensive writing and work that I did before.  The lawyers got involved like they do in everything else and it stopped being fun and I feel like theologians and philosophers lost the ability to inform and set the agendas when the lawyers glommed on.  It is hard to make a theological point when a lawyer is in the room talking about insurance and finances.  Carol and others like her lived with the ethical questions everyday.  She would drift back into my life with questions about care and needs, utility and altruism and the famous “what would Jesus do”.

She was so quiet that when she spoke you had to listen and she usually had something very important to say.  She drifted into my life again when we sought volunteers to come to the State Developmental Center (now the Life Skills and Transition Center – see post for October 24) to do Bible studies.   She was a very good teacher, kind and empathetic but we did have to remind her to “speak up” on occasion.  We had great discussions too.  I remember one of the discussions was about the fact that we can all become handicapped (and in all likelihood will) at some point in our lives.  The fact that our care and love for handicapped folks at every level is a chance to be what God calls us to be was always in the discussion.  Little did Carol or I know that she would soon be afflicted with a handicapping situation herself.  My last conversation with her was about fear and hope and the love of God that passes understanding just like the question of suffering is beyond understanding.  Then she slipped out of my life until Sunday evening when I read her obituary.

Carol passed on October 24 at her home.  She slipped out again and this time for good until we meet again in life everlasting.  Her faith in the ultimate mercy of God in Christ was what kept her going through trial and tribulation.  I want to go to her funeral.  I can’t because on the day of her service I am doing a service for one of her former students at the center.  If I could ask her I am sure she would tell me that she would prefer I took care of the person at the center rather than come to her funeral.  She was like that.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, October 29, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. at the Our Savior Lutheran Church, Cavalier, ND. Visitation will be held Monday, October 28th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Askew Funeral Home, Cavalier, ND.


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What’s In a Name? The Church makes decisions about mercy.

Life Skills and Transition Center

Grafton State School

It started out as a the “State Institution for the Feebleminded”.  We can barely imagine a name like that in our politically correct day and age.  Then it became The Grafton State School for the Mentally Handicapped and after awhile it was just called the Grafton State School.  For awhile we called it the “State Developmental Center” and now we call it the “Life Skills and Transition Center”.  That has a nicer ring to it.

In the picture above you can see the All Faith Chapel which was a gift from the people of North Dakota and dedicated in the 1970’s.

It didn’t take long before Zion English Lutheran in Grafton began an intentional visitation ministry to the Center not long after being established as a congregation.  We know that Rev. Al Thiem was doing work there in 1951 and the work continued until the District in Convention decided as a churchly function that it should be a ministry supported by the entire District.

So what is in a name?  Imagine if we said that this ministry was the ministry of Zion Church in Grafton.  That is wonderful and pleasing to God.  But when we say that it is a ministry of the District that means that 90 some congregations take it as “their” ministry too.  That has a nicer ring to it.

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Homeward Bound

Homeward bound This is the time of the year when I get a bit melancholy.  The change of seasons is bittersweet and as the plants and leaves change color and die it is impossible for me to not think of the those that have gone before us.  They lived their lives and then they were gone.  All Saint’s Day comes in this midst of this change.  We look forward to a grand reunion with our blessed dead because of the death and resurrection of Christ.  I recently attended the funeral and burial of my wife’s Uncle, Richard Freeman in Wausau, Wisconsin.  He was an avid outdoorsman and Fall was his favorite season.  The changing seasons and the hunting it afforded were a major theme of the visitation.  He was buried on a beautiful hillside close to a flaming Maple tree that was glorious to behold.  It was so bright it seemed to even give it’s light to the falling rain.

That passage from the Isaiah 40 keeps coming to mind – “The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

Homeward Bound is one of those songs that evoke the season.  It is by Marta Keene and it is wonderful.

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Mercy and politics – we told you so….


unchristian 3

First let me say that the folks in the picture do not represent my view and certainly not the view of my church.

I just listened to a commercial for the affordable care act that reminded me of the hour long commercials we see late at night.  After all the glories of the new health care act were explained by the community organizer in chief I am at a loss as to why congress does not want to join, or Unions, or the Senate, or the White House staff, or …. but I digress.

A wise man said years ago that we (Christian conservatives) were in trouble because the genius of the Democrat party was that they high jacked Christian language and concerns about mercy and care for the poor while being willing to abort an entire generation of taxpayers that might have paid for their utopian ideals and in the bargain made the Democrat party a religion and not a party.  But of course if we talk about it we are being nasty and mean.  Christians are not allowed to mention thoughts like this.  If we say we are motivated by faith perspectives then our faith is attacked as being exclusive.  If we say we are motivated by economics that is seen as evil.  If we talk in the public square we are accused of speaking in an unchristian manner and yet the accusers have no notion of what a Christian manner is. So here is this…………

“Many outsiders clarified that they believe Christians have a right (even an obligation) to pursue political involvement, but they disagree with our methods and our attitudes. They say we seem to be pursuing an agenda that benefits only ourselves; that we expect too much out of politics; they question whether we are motivated by our economic status rather than faith perspectives when we support conservative politics; they claim we act and say things in an unchristian manner; they wonder whether Jesus would use political power as we do; and they are concerned that we overpowered the voices of other groups.”
―     David Kinnaman,     Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters    

The question of Jesus using political power as we do shows the utter stupidity of what we deal with.  But I find it hard to be surprised at anything anymore.  In a country that no longer elects Presidents but hires community organizers anything and everything should be expected.

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Mercy and Witness – nothing new under the sun.

unchristian 2

Hermann Sasse said this 65 years ago.

“What are Christians known for? Outsiders think our moralizing, our condemnations, and our attempts to draw boundaries around everything. Even if these standards are accurate and biblical, they seem to be all we have to offer. And our lives are a poor advertisement for the standards. We have set the gameboard to register lifestyle points; then we are surprised to be trapped by our mistakes. The truth is we have invited the hypocrite image.”
―     David Kinnaman,     Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters    

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Mercy and Witness – get your head around this.


I am always interested by studies like this – they could have asked me and saved a lot of time and trouble –

“A person with a biblical worldview experiences, interprets, and response to reality in light of the Bible’s principles. What Scripture teaches is the primary grid for making decisions and interacting with the world. For the purposes of our research, we investigate a biblical worldview based on eight elements. A person with a biblical worldview believes that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and he still rules it today, salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned, Satan is real, a Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people, the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches, unchanging moral truth exists, and such moral truth is defined by the Bible.

In our research, we have found that people who embraced these eight components we have a substantially different faith from other Americans – indeed, from other believers.”
―     David Kinnaman,     Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters

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Pastor Appreciation and Mercy


Pastor appreciation month

This is an interesting perspective on how we used to deal with each other in our “life Together.   I am not advocating this – I am recopying this blog from Dr. Ray Hartwig who posted this at   ———————

October is “Clergy Appreciation Month.” This is the month for congregations and their members to show appreciation to their pastors. And they do so, in various ways: special prayers, card showers, pot lucks, etc. Not many give the pastor the parsonage.

In one of the rural parishes I served, my predecessor retired from the ministry and remained in the parish to serve as organist. Although withdrawn and not very personable, he was also not always a quiet man, known to make outrageous comments. And he was not a very good preacher or teacher by most standards. Unique to say the least, what he sometimes did and said would today prompt a call to the district president. And yet the congregation loved and respected him during his 28 years as their pastor and then gave him the parsonage when he retired.

That was another day, another time–a time when calls to obtain pastors were more prayerful than careful, when pastors were more likely to be accepted with their flaws than expected to be well above average, when congregations saw their pastors as men of God holding a very high office. Our congregations and our Synod would do well to be a little less careful and expecting and a little more prayerful and accepting of the men God provides. They are giving their lives to teach His Word, administer His Sacraments, and shepherd the souls He calls, gathers, and enlightens by the very Gospel they preach.

And, of course, we could also use another month, a “Congregation Appreciation Month,” for pastors to show their love and appreciation for their congregations, the kind of thing C.F.W. Walther spoke of in his twentieth evening lecture on Law and Gospel. That would be the rest of the story. But that would also be another blog.

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