Flood Warning

After a week of intense heat in Massachusetts, the sky turned black today and then the floodgates opened up.  After about an hour of rain, the National Weather Service issued this statement:

… A FLASH FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 500 PM EDT FOR SOUTH CENTRAL ESSEX… EAST CENTRAL MIDDLESEX… NORTHERN SUFFOLK AND EXTREME NORTH CENTRAL NORFOLK COUNTIES…

I wish someone would have issued a flood warning to me six months ago when I began preparing to take sixteen youth to the Dominican Republic.  In order to make it happen, we had to raise over $27,000.  That is  about twice as much as we have raised for any of the trips I have led.  There were times where I was convinced this was impossible.

Someday I hope to quit using that word and simply trust God who can open the floodgates.

After months of hard work, we have raised $27,000.  I would like to say it was my genius ideas, energy, and sweat that made this happen but the real reason is that lots and lots of people were extremely generous.  Multiple people gave more than a thousand dollars and over two hundred gave at least twenty.  And then there are the dozens of people who gave of their time and energy and gifts…  Right now I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

I was reminded today of Psalm 42 which begins, “As a deer pants for flowing streams,so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (vss. 1-2a).  I have been praying a similar prayer for the last couple of months.

God responds to the Psalmist’s prayer in verses 7-8,

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

As we prepare to leave having raised almost exactly what we needed for this trip, I can relate to what it feels like when God opens the floodgates.  Tonight as I listen to the sound of rain on my window, I pray that I don’t forget that God is always faithful to provide what I need today.

Follow our trip at www.manchesteryouth.com.

Happy Father’s Day

I was about thirteen and I was at the golf course with my dad.  We were going golfing with his friend, Rich.  My dad was lifting my clubs out of the van when he noticed how dirty they were and commented that I should probably clean them.  I told him that I didn’t know what to use to clean them.  He said that I should try using elbow grease.

I had no idea what that was so I asked.  He told me that Rich usually carried some in his golf bag so I should ask him for it.

Later, when we were waiting to tee off, my dad said, “Eric, didn’t you want to ask Rich for something?”  I proceeded to ask him if I could borrow some elbow grease.  He looked at me strangely and I proceeded to say, “My dad told me that you carry some in your bag.”

Then Rich understood that I had been set up.  Knowing my dad, he wasn’t surprised.  This was a common occurrence throughout my childhood.  My father made it his goal to embarrass his children any chance that he could get.  One of his favorites was using his Donald Duck voice in public and at the most inappropriate times.  And he loved to make up stories like the one above.  I could think of several.

A few years ago my parents were visiting me in Massachusetts.  I had some friends over and we were telling them about the furniture store with the iMax inside.  When someone asked about the price of tickets, my dad and I said simultaneously, “You have to buy a piece of furniture to see a movie.”  That’s when I realized it… I am turning into my dad.  There was a time in my life when that might not have appealed to me.  However, at this point in my life, I think that’s a really good thing.  He loves God, loves people, is a great golfer, and has a pretty good sense of humor… once you get used to it.

This Father’s Day I thought it was important to let my nephews know what’s coming:

Grace

My mom taught me how to knit when I was in second or third grade. I decided that I would knit a washcloth for my teacher. I remember putting hours of work into it and being really excited to give it to her. I wrapped it up and bringing it to school the day before Christmas break. She unwrapped it and her face lit up when she saw it. I told her I made it myself. She was bursting with excitement about the beautiful washcloth I had knit for her. I felt so proud.

I smile every time I think about that story. Partly because I remember how good it felt to give a special gift to someone but mostly because I know what that washcloth looked like. It was the first thing I had knit so it wasn’t very good. There were mistakes everywhere and there were lots of loose knots. It was full of holes. It probably would have disintegrated if my teacher tried to scrub a plate with it.

My teacher didn’t like the washcloth because of the quality, it was because I made it. Rather than making it less valuable, its imperfections actually made it more valuable to her because they reminded her that it came from me.

I think the word for that is grace.

Grace is what bonds us together as humans (and what bonds us to God). When we accept the imperfections of others, we are showing grace. If we were all perfect, we wouldn’t need grace. But then we probably wouldn’t need each other either.

I made the videos below for my church. They would never make it on television. They are full of imperfections. But the people in the videos love them because they represent our relationships with each other. They are full of grace.

(If you love me, you’ll at least watch the first couple minutes of the first video. It goes downhill from there but it’s worth it.)

It doesn’t matter what you call it, just don’t call me late for a game.

A lot of people who know me think I have a problem.  Some call it an addiction.  It’s not easy to talk about, mostly because it has such a strange name: cornhole.

I was originally introduced to the sport four years ago at a family reunion in Minnesota.  I was hooked from the beginning.  For the last two months, Tania and I have been driving into Boston every Tuesday to play.  It was a lot of fun and we were pretty happy with the results.

Pretty much every night, our opponents would ask us, “Why would you drive this far to play this game?”
“Well, because we’re addicted and the closest place to get a fix is 45 minutes away.”
Not anymore though.  Introducing www.northshorecornhole.com!  If you live within a hundred miles of Manchester-by-the-Sea, I expect to see you at the fun night next Tuesday.

They Call Me Pastor

David, my colleague at FBC, told me that someone asked him a strange question a few weeks after he began here: “Have you watered the organ yet?”  He thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

I have not fully begun my job as an associate pastor but I’m working up to it.  We’ve put the sign on the outside and people have started calling me “pastor.”  It sounds strange every time they say it.

It was exactly a month ago that the church voted to call me.  Here’s what I’ve learned since then:

1. Pastors are 100 times more likely to be asked to pray before meals.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a meal and the host turns to me and says, “Pastor, would you say grace.”  One friend asked me after a meal at a restaurant, “Does this count as a business dinner since you said the prayer?”

2. You need to get a license if you’re going to show a movie that’s been advertised.

I was going to show The Nativity Story illegally before a friend pointed this out to me.

3. You can learn a lot from a seasoned veteran.

In addition to helping me navigate health care and tax issues, here are just a few of the things David has taught me so far.

  • A plastic-wrapped ream of paper comes with a special tab that makes opening it a lot easier.
  • The paper towels in the restroom are installed by pulling down from the center of the roll.
  • Flicking the handle up on the urinal keeps it from running continuously.

I look forward to gleaning many more of these valuable tidbits from this wise man.

4. Just because you’re a pastor, it doesn’t mean you can’t live in a great location.

My third floor penthouse looks out over the harbor, is a half mile from the beach, and next door to one of the most popular ice cream stands in the world, Captain Dusty’s.

5. The demands of pastoral ministry are far outweighed by the perks.

I’ve been blessed beyond words by the welcome given me by the wonderful people at FBC.

My small group helped me paint my entire apartment.

David gave me the key to his office and unlimited access to his library (and to him).

People from the church showered me with cake, gifts, and gift cards for my new place.

I love being a pastor.

What do you do when you turn 30?

Fog over Lake ZoarThe water in Lake Zoar was much warmer than the early morning air on September 20th.  The contrast in temperature created a thick fog over the water.  The start of the triathlon was delayed so the fog would burn off enough to see the buoys at the end of the swim course.  I was anxious to get started.  I had already been awake for several hours and was painfully aware that I had a long day ahead of me.

Over the course of the summer I had been fairly consistent with my training.  I rode over 800 miles on my bike, ran about 325 miles, and spent several hours swimming in pools, lakes, and the ocean.  I told people that I was thinking about doing a half-ironman but I didn’t actually commit to it until two weeks before.  I was afraid to commit because I didn’t know if I could finish.  The main reason I finally decided to do it was that the race was on my thirtieth birthday.  I wanted to do something memorable before I hit middle age.  If I had known how many hills I would have to climb, I probably wouldn’t have even started.

The gun finally went off went off and I plunged into the waters of sweet oblivion; one of the greatest adventures of my life had finally started.

Luke describes the birth of Jesus in chapter 2.  Look across the page to chapter three and He’s already a full-grown man.  We only get one story of Jesus’ life between his birth and adulthood.  In one scene he’s a precocious preteen and in the next He’s being plunged into the waters of the Jordan River, being baptized by his cousin John.  He exits the water to begin the greatest adventure of his life.  He knew what hill he had to climb but he went anyway.

It was thirteen years ago when I began to think that someday I might be a pastor.  In those 13 years I have had quite a few opportunities to be a part-time pastor but for the most part I have been a full-time student.  I have spent twenty-two years of my life in school.  For the last thirteen years I’ve been waiting for that day when I would be able to commit myself completely to serving God in a local church.

I got a taste of what full-time ministry might be like when I served for six months at West Cohasset Chapel.  Then I went off to London for more school and then returned to Gordon-Conwell to continue my PhD.  The whole time I was waiting for the adventure to start.

This fall I suspended my PhD program and began applying for jobs.   Some folks at First Baptist Church suggested they create a full-time position for me there.  We talked about it (a lot) and then presented it to the congregation.  Last night the church voted.  Today I have a new title: Associate Pastor.  The adventure is finally beginning!

Am I ready?  I think so.  But maybe that’s just because no one told me about the hills I’m going to have to climb.

I feel like I should have gotten to this point a long time ago.  The road to full-time ministry was longer than I expected but lately I’ve been encouraged by Luke 3:23, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  Maybe thirty isn’t such a bad time to start after all.

The water in Lake Zoar was much warmer than the early morning air on September 20th.  The contrast in temperature created a thick fog over the water.  The start of the triathlon was delayed so the fog would burn off enough to see the buoys at the end of the swim course.  I was anxious to get started.  I had already been awake for several hours and was painfully aware that I had a long day ahead of me.

Over the course of the summer I had been fairly consistent with my training.  I rode over 800 miles on my bike, ran about 325 miles, and spent several hours swimming in pools, lakes, and the ocean.  I told people that I was thinking about doing a half-ironman but I didn’t actually commit to it until two weeks before.  I was afraid to commit because I didn’t know if I could finish.  The main reason I finally decided to do it was that the race was on my thirtieth birthday.  I wanted to do something memorable before I hit middle age.

I stood on the beach in my wetsuit and a fleece, trying to stay warm.  I was about to attempt a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13 mile run.  If I had known how many hills I would have to climb, I probably wouldn’t have even started.  But when the gun went off, I plunged into the waters of sweet oblivion; one of the greatest adventures of my life had finally started.

Luke describes the birth of Jesus in chapter 2.  Look across the page to chapter three and He’s already a full-grown man.  We only get one story of Jesus’ life between his birth and adulthood.  In one scene he’s a precocious preteen and in the next He’s being plunged into the waters of the Jordan River, being baptized by his cousin John.  He exits the water to begin the greatest adventure of his life.  He knew what hill he had to climb but he went anyway.

It was thirteen years ago when I began to think that someday I might be a pastor.  In those 13 years I have had quite a few opportunities to be a part-time pastor but for the most part I have been a full-time student.  I have spent twenty-two years of my life in school.  For the last thirteen years I’ve been waiting for that day when I would be able to commit myself completely to serving God in a local church.

I got a taste of what full-time ministry might be like when I served for six months at West Cohasset Chapel.  Then I went off to London for more school and then returned to Gordon-Conwell to continue my PhD.  The whole time I was waiting for the adventure to start.

This fall I suspended my PhD program and began applying for jobs.   Some of the folks at First Baptist Church suggested they create a full-time position for me there.  We talked about it (a lot) and then presented it to the congregation.  Last night the church voted.  Today I have a new title: Associate Pastor.  The adventure is finally beginning!

Am I ready?  I think so.  But maybe that’s just because no one told me about the hills I’m going to have to climb.

I feel like I should have gotten to this point a long time ago.  The road to full-time ministry was longer than I expected.  Lately I’ve been encouraged by Luke 3:23, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  I guess thirty isn’t a bad time to start after all.

My Name in Vain

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon on the Third Commandment: “”You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7).  In that sermon, I talked about what happens pretty much every time I go somewhere to preach – my name gets all messed up.  First, it’s usually listed in the bulletin as “Rev. Erik Dokken.”  Two of those three elements are wrong: (1) I’m not a reverend (because I’m not ordained) and (2) I never spell my first name with a “k.”  Then, to make it worse, when someone gets up to introduce me, they usually say, “We’re glad to have Rev. Eric Doe-kin here with us today.”*  Then I smile and wave at the congregation while I seethe inside.  If I don’t like it when people mess up my name, how do you think God feels when we misuse his name?

After I preached the sermon, mezgers+nickI headed down to Dallas for a prestigious society meeting.  It’s the kind of society that charges $200 for you to attend their meetings.  While in Dallas, I got to see the Mezgers whom I hadn’t seen since the day I graduated from college seven years ago (and I got to hang out with Nick whom I haven’t seen for about a month).  It was great to reconnect with them and to meet their kids: Simeon, Nathan, and Mack.   In fact, I had so much fun with them, I was tempted to just spend the rest of the week hanging out with them rather than go to the fancy society meeting.  But since I had spent $200, I figured I should probably go.

Mack & MeMack & Me again

When I got to the meeting, I was excited that we were getting fancy laminated nametags.  My excitement died pretty quickly when I saw my own nametag:

Erik Dokken

I’m not blaming anyone here but I’m pretty sure that I spelled my name with a “c” when I registered…

*I’m considering sending the following video to any church at which I will be preaching so they learn how to correctly pronounce my last name. 

Kupenda 5k

kupenda 5k Start

The first race I ever won was the Kupenda 5k at Hampton Beach in 2006.  Kupenda is an amazing organization that ministers to children with disabilities in Kenya.  Check them out at kupenda.org.

I got a chance to run the race again this weekend at Gordon College.  This picture was taken about a second before the race started and about 1.5 seconds before I realized that the race was about to start.  There’s another picture here.