A Prayer for College Students

Last week, I got the privilege of greeting Immanuel students as they arrived for the first day of school. I wish I could do the same with our college students!
Last week, I had the privilege of greeting Immanuel students as they arrived for the first day of school. I wish I could do the same with our college students!

Many of Immanuel’s college students left to go to their colleges and universities last week so they could start classes today.  I’d like to share a prayer with all of our college students.  But it’s a prayer that we can all pray as well…just switch out the pronouns – “college students” for “I” and “them” for “me.”  Please join me in prayer…

Dear Heavenly Father ~

Your Son, Jesus Christ, promised to be with us always. He constantly looked out for the confused, the anxious and worried. Without hesitation, he provided for everyone’s needs, always with love and understanding.

As I begin this year of study, please remain with me, not only when my heart is near yours, but even when I put much distance between us. Give me the faith that remains true to you even at the sound of voices that encourage me otherwise. When I am strong, please keep me humble and when I’m weak, please hold me up tall and sturdy.

As I discover new lessons in life, may I be discerning between healthy choices and those that will displease you. When I befriend others may I hold respect, truth, and honest concern as cherished virtues to be shared. In all that I experience may I always remember that you are the creator of all life, that I hold all of creation in the highest regard without discrimination or prejudice.

As relationships change during this time of transition in my life, may I remain the person my parents can be proud of and speak well of to others. May I always appreciate their years of nurture, support and love, even as I thank you for providing me with the blessings of family and childhood companions.

Finally, I ask that your Spirit never be far from me. May my faith always grow when challenged and my example be pleasing to you. May this entire experience prepare me for a life of service to others, a willingness to reach out to the hurting and a sincere desire to be comforting to the troubled.

For you are God. You have known me before I was conceived and remained with me always. You sent your Son to provide for my salvation and your Spirit to keep me in faith. To you all glory, honor praise and thanksgiving, AMEN

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Immanuel's "Keep in Touch" ministry sends care packages to college students and military members. The next mailing is September 18. For more information, see http://www.immanuelpalatine.org/kit-september-2016/

Immanuel’s “Keep in Touch” ministry sends care packages to college students and military members. The next mailing is September 18. More information… 

A Prayer for High School Students

Fremd High School in Palatine is holding their "Freshman Kick Off" today.
Fremd High School in Palatine is just one of the many area high schools that Immanuel alumni and members attend.

Area high schoolers begin school today.  I’d like to share a prayer for them again this year…

High School is beginning. Millions of young people, along with faculty and staff, are gathering across the country. Freshmen are beginning a new chapter in their lives. Seniors begin to make decisions for their lives after high school. Filled with new discoveries and relationships, as well as memories that often last a lifetime for students and parents, it is a remarkable time for everyone.

Whether you are a high school student or a parent of a high schooler — in fact everyone who has ever attended high school — let’s ask God to bless our young people and all who teach. I especially remember Immanuel’s students who graduated and are now attending Palatine, Fremd, Schaumburg, Barrington, Hoffman Estates, St. Viator, Faith Lutheran, and Dundee-Crown High Schools, among others.

Here is a prayer I wrote for you. Please make it yours!

Dearest Jesus,

At 12 years old, you set the standard of learning for us when you went to the temple, sat among the teachers and asked them questions. Many high school students are returning to school where they will also “sit among the teachers.” We thank and praise you for the opportunities you give us to learn and grow in all ways.

For those anxious about school, calm and reassure them.

For those who lack friends, bring healthy relationships in to their lives.

For those who are challenged to learn, surround them with people who care and provide guidance.

For those who excel, may they recognize the gifts you provide and use them to the well-being of others.

For all, students, teachers, staff and parents assure them that you are the Lord of All, the Prince of Peace, and our Savior, in whose name we pray.  Amen

Wise men and women are always learning,
always listening for fresh insights. Proverbs 18:15 (MSG)

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

 Immanuel’s Faculty Returns!

teacher_installation_2016There are at least two annual occasions when the Immanuel School Faculty gather together in front of the church altar during a worship service — before and after a school year.  Yesterday was one of these occasions and it was in preparation for the new school year, which begins on Wednesday, August 17, though Immanuel’s teachers started back this morning. After school ends in May, the teachers will gather once again to thank God for his blessing on the just-completed school year.

IMG_2281Yesterday’s gathering included scripture, prayers, and the formal installation of two outstanding new teachers at Immanuel, Meredith Evans (4th Grade) and Michelle Johns, (Science and Language Arts, Middle School). Miss Evans and Mrs. Johns come to Immanuel with years of experience in the classroom, and are as pleased to be coming to Immanuel as we are to have them on our staff. I spoke briefly with all the teachers and the congregation, encouraging everyone to support our school. I recognize that a teacher’s work is filled with rewards, but it also has its share of challenges.

If a school like Immanuel is to thrive in the future, it must offer more than the other local schools so parents will recognize the need to enroll their children. Gathering the faculty at the altar twice a year, along with daily morning devotions, weekly chapel and religious instruction every day are all advantages we offer. All this, academics, expanded sports opportunities, a music program, and a host of extra-curricular activities not only keep Immanuel on pace with the local schools, but often give it an edge.

Young people who graduate from Immanuel are well-prepared, not only for high school, but even for college and beyond. Many parents have indicated the cost of tuition was simply an investment in their child’s future. Scholarships and grants come easier to the well-performing high school students, putting them on a path for success. With a solid relationship with Jesus Christ and the ability to consistently make God-pleasing life choices, Immanuel’s alumni are serving world-wide in a host of occupations.

Are you interested in learning more about Immanuel? We always have room for more students, covet your prayers, and welcome your financial support. Give me a call or send an email – Pastortom@ilcp.org. Better yet, contact Linda our Admissions Director at lstammer@ilcp.org or 847-359-1549.

See you in church — and school!
Pastor Tom

Immanuel’s Shining Stars

CLM_8686.web

The MLB All Star Break may be over, but I think Immanuel’s “All Star Break” break occurred during the last two weeks in June, though it wasn’t a break at all…it was a chance for us to perform like All Stars, by the grace of God of course.

Pastor Warren, Pastor Donald and a dedicated team of volunteers hit a home run with the “Shining Stars Baseball/Softball Camp” last week. Over 50 children attended!

I had the opportunity to stop by.  The excitement among the children was contagious. Everyone was ready to “play ball” and they were so well-behaved and totally respectful of their coaches. A few Parks and Recreation workers even stopped by to see the young ball players. I know the program made a difference among many youth and their parents. Read more about Shining Stars on Immanuel’s website.

Shining Stars is not all the end of June brought:

  • Immanuel held the first ever Stronger Together Summit.
  • Trephina Bedell and Carolyn Rappoport headed up a dedicated volunteer team that produced a very successful Adventure Bible Camp (ABC).
  • Immanuel’s teachers, though on summer break, were busy.  Some volunteered their talents for ABC, some attended conferences, others attended the Summit, and many were spotted at Immanuel attending to things that better our students’ experiences.
  • Discovery Camp staff took great care of students in a fun way, as they’ll do all summer.
  • Pastor Donald and some of the youth volunteered at a soup kitchen.
  • Jenny Laabs held Band Camp, providing students with an important fine arts opportunity this summer.  (I’m going to hold off on “beat the band” puns.)
  • And so very much more…

Plus, much happened in July too! Stay tuned for more this summer…

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Part 2 – NYG 2016 NOLA: In Christ Alone We Stand or “How I Spent My Summer”

Pastor Donald and the Immanuel NYG group. If you want to see more pictures, just ask Pastor Donald. He has hundreds!
Pastor Donald and the Immanuel NYG group. If you want to see more pictures, just ask Pastor Donald. He has hundreds!

Recently I shared with you that my wife Carol and I were heading to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans to serve on the Critical Incident Team (CIT). I am happy to report that we have returned safely from an experience that may be described as hectic, challenging, exhausting, memorable, and most definitely filled with satisfaction. Pastor Donald and our youth also returned safely – though they had to do it via Newark, New Jersey! New Orleans weather was typical for mid-July: hot and humid with daily downpours that brought little, if any, relief from the humidity. I described the weather as “3-shirts-a-day.”

Following a day of training, becoming acquainted with our radios, learning new software for reporting incidents, and reviewing various protocols, the ten members of CIT felt prepared…prepared despite the fact that we were team of only 10 for 25,000 people! We met with other safety teams, including security, and received the latest updates about possible demonstrations in the city with the potential to interfere with the gathering. The team went “live” and began to walk through the convention center, waiting for any incidents that required our assistance.

It did not take long. All 25,000 participants met in the Superdome each evening. It was a 30-minute walk from the convention center where all the interest centers, experiential learning center, and Bible studies were held throughout the day. The heat and humidity, combined with less than healthy meal choices and a significant lack of water, was a recipe for many young people to become quite ill as the evening events began. I am sure that the 25-hour bus trip many people took to New Orleans didn’t include a lot of rest for anyone. Often the youth simply needed time to recover with sips of water and relaxing in a medical station under the watchful, trained eyes of medical personal. Occasionally a trip to the hospital was necessary. A CIT team was assigned to monitor the situation and accompany the youth to the hospital if necessary.

It wasn’t only the lack of water and long travel days combined with poor diet choices that brought a person down. Adults kept us busy, especially when they experienced chest pain, or were attacked by a colony of fire ants as they helped clean up a park, or developed a serious infection that required immediate hospitalization. I once came across a middle-age woman in a wheelchair who was being escorted by EMS to a taxi stand so she could return to her hotel. After I introduced myself and asked if she needed assistance from the team, she responded unmistakably in the affirmative. She was near the end of her endurance, on the edge of an emotional collapse, and not sure what to do next. One of the team members spent a few hours in conversation with her later that day, which seemed to be a good solution.

We began each day with an 8:00 a.m. meeting to review the previous day’s incidents and scan the day’s agenda for any situations that may necessitate the team’s assistance. Some of the interest centers discussed sensitive topics so we had a team nearby to assist if the need arose. Traditionally the gathering pays tribute to the youth and adults who intended to attend but unexpectedly passed away before the gathering. While the Gospel message with the promise of the resurrection is emphasized, it is a very emotional experience for many participants. We provided comfort as best as we could.

For Carol and I, what was perhaps the most memorable experience occurred without us realizing it immediately. One morning during a Bible study with 6,000 participants, a young woman suffered what appeared to be a seizure. Her friends quickly called 911 when they realized she needed immediate help. Two teams, four people total, responded initially. As the young woman was placed on the gurney and taken to the ambulance, we gathered a large group of those present, including her close friends.

Not knowing their friend’s medical condition was extremely frightening. Eventually her close friends gathered around Carol and I, and we simply listened, prayed and helped these young people during their time of crisis. We sat with them on the convention floor for more than an hour. As the day unfolded, we continued to hear from gathering leaders thanking us for simply doing what came quite naturally to us. We thanked God for giving us the opportunity to serve others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Carol and I loved our NYG experience and we aren’t alone.  Pastor Donald, Immanuel’s adult chaperones, and our teens also returned home enriched.  In fact, Pastor Donald and the youth shared their experience this weekend in worship. Of course, the NYG media team has a lot to share on their website, including this “by the numbers” graphic. The website is lcmsgathering.com – be sure to check it out.

Infographic credit: Emmi Moll, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team
Infographic credit: Emmi Moll, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team

See you in church this weekend!
Pastor Tom

Praying For Those in France and Our Youth

nice

As Carol and I sit in New Orleans, awaiting the arrival of 25,000 youth, we learned what happened in Nice, France. The death toll has now climbed to 77. More than 100 people are injured. Evil has risen to destroy once again. Let’s all pray for the first responders and for those who are struggling with such unbelievable loss.

Carol and I are serving on the crisis intervention team for the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans. We anticipate that 25,000 or more young people and adults will arrive here in the next two days. We had a briefing this morning from our security team, which is composed of police officers from around the country who liaison with the local police. They do not expect any trouble at all, but are taking every precaution. Do not listen to rumors from the group anonymously threatening to attack various cities. We are assured that is a hoax.

If you have a son or daughter attending the gathering, or know teens who will be at the Gathering, please be assured that every precaution is being taken.

We have state-of-the-art communication software used in NFL stadiums, as well as radios. This is such a privilege to serve the church in this manner. Everyone agrees this that the Gathering is the best thing the LCMS does on a large-scale.

Even as we prepare for the Gathering, our hearts break for those in Nice. Yet I can unequivocally reassure you that God is still God. He has not abandoned us, nor will evil take away your faith.

Remember that God is with us.  As God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Joshua centuries ago, he speaks to us today, “Fear not” (Isaiah 41:10). Sometimes we hesitate to believe that there is nothing to fear if God says, “I am with you.” So God says it often, “Fear not” and our faith becomes stronger. His right hand fights for His people, while His left hand holds our right hand (v 13).

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you,
“Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:10

Let us pray for the people of Nice, for our youth coming to New Orleans, and for peace in our world…

Lord God,
no one is unfamiliar to you – not those in Nice, Dallas, or our youth here in New Orleans,
and you want all people to be saved and know the truth.
In your mercy, watch over the victims of the Nice attacks,
those who lost friends and family,
those injured,
and those who witnessed the terror.
Bring those who are guilty of terrorism to justice
and restore peace in France, Europe, the Middle East, and yes even here in the United States,
as hate and anger is replaced with love and understanding.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

See you in church soon,
Pastor Tom

National Youth Gathering 2016 NOLA:In Christ Alone We Stand or “How I Spent My Summer”

nyg_2016
Before sending them off, our congregation prayed yesterday for the students and adults attending the NYG in NOLA.

More than 25,000 youth and adults are expected to gather this week in New Orleans for the LCMS Youth gathering. This is the largest gathering of youth hosted by our national church and it occurs once every three years. Immanuel Youth will be attending with Pastor Donald and other adults who will serve as group leaders.

This will be the ninth gathering I’ve attend. I love these events – they are a tremendous witness of Christian faith in action. Nothing compares to tens of thousands of young people rising up in a huge National Football League stadium to praise their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Imagine all those young people in daily bible studies, attending workshops and seminars, volunteering throughout New Orleans to clean up a park, paint a house or pack food for the hungry. And for those young people who need to burn off some energy, there is the Experiential Learning Center in the middle of the convention center.

I am honored to join the gathering again this year as a member of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The team is composed of ten specifically selected men and women from a variety of fields each qualified to offer assistance to the youth and adults at the gatherings. Just a few days ago my partner was forced to resign from the team due to a family emergency. My wife Carol volunteered, and after a short vetting process she was accepted to the team. Carol is a licensed school psychologist and former nurse with a lot of experience helping people. Instead of spending a few days in New Orleans relaxing, reading a few books and leisurely participating in the gathering, Carol will now be on call 24/7.

As part of the CIT Carol and I, along with the rest of the team, will be wherever we are needed. Some presentations are likely to be difficult for some youth. We will be there to listen. Some young people and adults will arrive at the gathering with some issues from home that may interfere with their experience. Sometimes disagreements arise between adults and youth that require intervention. And of course with any gathering for 25,000 people, crisis will develop. When people do not have the resources to deal with difficult events, we will be there for them.

So that is how I’ll be spending the next eight or nine days. I’m excited for the opportunity, look forward to helping however necessary and ask for your prayers of support. I’ll have a follow-up blog post when I return from the gathering.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

All Gathering events in the Superdome will be livestreamed from the Gathering website. Dome Events include four evening Mass Events and the Wednesday Divine Service. Mass Events begin at 8:30 p.m. (Central Time) on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. The Divine Service takes place on Wednesday, July 20,  at 9:30 a.m.

See you in church – in a couple of weeks,
Pastor Tom

The Stronger Together Summit

Summit_6.25.16Which is the correct statement?

Stronger Together is:

  1. A Hilary Clinton Campaign Slogan.
  2. An episode of the DC Comics based Supergirl TV show.
  3. A song by the recording artist and songwriter Shannon known for Freestyle and dance-pop music.
  4. A movement at Immanuel bringing together ministries to work cooperatively to reach people throughout our community and beyond.

They are all correct. “Stronger Together” is a slogan that has been used in many circumstances. Bill Gates, Queen Elizabeth II, Nancy Reagan and many more have used the slogan to describe everything from the future of computers to striving for peace, even embryonic stem cell research. These are indeed powerful words.

More than just powerful words, our Stronger Together movement is a powerful collaboration!  On June 25th, Immanuel held the first Stronger Together Summit. Nearly 100 participants came together and worked together. People showed up not knowing what to expect, and ministry teams left empowered with goals, 90-day as well as long-term, and plans to reach our community.

I’d like to point out that this was on a beautiful Saturday morning in June no less.  I truly appreciate the time commitment Summit volunteers and attendees made – past, present, and future.  At this groundbreaking Summit, we emphasized three absolute necessities:

  1. We need to unify.
  2. We need to collaborate.
  3. We need to mobilize and establish more outposts.

I think my favorite part of the Summit was that it was a conversation, with different groups of people each talking, planning, working together and then all of us coming back together.  As each ministry shared their goals and purpose with everyone, other groups saw opportunities for unprecedented collaboration. The enthusiasm was truly inspiring.

Prayer. This is how we began the Summit - Dan Heuertz, our gifted facilitator, Tom Hensley, the leader of the Stronger Together movement, and Immanuel's pastors.
Huddled for a pre-Summit Prayer. This is how we began – Dan Heuertz, our gifted facilitator, Tom Hensley, the leader of the Stronger Together movement, and Immanuel’s pastors. Pastor Donald then welcomed everyone and officially opened the Summit in prayer.

Immanuel is blessed with many gifted people who are willing to give their time and gifts for this vital campaign.  Our success is a combination of God’s rich blessings and people following through on the opportunities that open before us. We are doing nothing less than changing the direction of our church and school, not “just to survive” in this ever anti-Christian environment but to effect real, lasting, God-pleasing change in the lives of people. We are truly “Stronger Together.”

Mark your calendar now for the next Stronger Together events – be there!

  1. Stronger Together Anniversary Celebration – September 10 and 11
  2. Stronger Together Summit II – Saturday, September 24th in the Gym

Finally, remember that we help each other in different ways. God has given us all different talents to advance his kingdom and help others. As St. Paul writes…

The evidence of the Spirit’s presence is given to each person for the common good of everyone. The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom. The same Spirit gives another person the ability to speak with knowledge. 1 Corinthians 12:7-8

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

P.S.  Of course, this Summit would not have been possible without the Herculean efforts of the incredible volunteers on the Stronger Together team. Sometime I have to tell you more about them, but right now I know they are as excited as I am by what happened when EVERYONE came together at the Summit, and want me to focus on that.  I am deeply grateful for this talented team.

A Prayer as We Grieve the Shooting of Dallas Police Officers

postAs we learn about the senseless death of five Dallas Police Officers and the wounding of at least seven more, we are shocked, stunned, and grieving for a city and families who are suffering. Repeatedly we ask “Why?” but answers are scarce. We share our anguish with each other and turn to God, who understands our heart.  Please join me in prayer…

Dearest Jesus,

You are the Prince of Peace, our refuge in times of distress…please bring comfort to our nation today. Be with families, friends and colleagues of those murdered, as well as those struggling to live. May a city in crisis be granted your wisdom to bring justice to those who are evil and compassion to those in anguish. Grant our nation’s leaders words and actions that will heal divisions, end violence and support those with indescribable needs. May each of us live with courage through this day and ever-growing faith for an uncertain future.

Hear us Lord, Amen.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

A Father’s Day Prayer…and Some History

I’d like to share with you once again a Father’s Day prayer and some history.

Father’s Day History
 (Compiled from History.com)

On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers, a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah.  However, it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday. The next year, a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. However, many men continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.”

During the depression, struggling retailers and advertisers worked to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards. When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.

In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

Happy Father’s Day!

See you in church,
Pastor Tom