Musings from Pastor Renee

  Pastor Renee Franzen

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Brookdale Water Walkers

When I was growing up my family sponsored a young Korean boy through World Vision. His picture was always on our refrigerator, and we often prayed for him before bedtime or meals together.  We never forgot that we were sitting down to a home cooked meal and there were children all over the world who couldn’t do that. We prayed that God would provide for them too. 

 I would look at the World Vision magazine that came in the mail, and see the world in grainy black and white images. As a kid it boiled down to this: the world looked like a hard place for a lot of children, but there was always something I could do to help.  I guess you could say I grew up with a “world vision” thanks to my parents’ commitments.  I also grew up highly aware of the Congo.  Jody LeVahn was Brookdale’s bush nurse and missionary to the Congo, commissioned just before I was born. Her picture was on the refrigerator too.  Every 4 years she would come back and show her slides and tell us stories about life in Africa.

When our denomination was asked to join up with World Vision in the Congo it was like two pieces of my world coming together seamlessly. The CongoKids page on the ECC website says this:

The Evangelical Covenant Church and World Vision have collectively spent over a century working with our friends in DR Congo. For about 80 years, the ECC has walked alongside the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM), witnessing the creation of strong and vibrant church life that enriches communities in northwest DR Congo. Additionally, World Vision has been working in other areas of DR Congo for over four decades. Their proven community development model for sustainable long-term solutions is built on 60+ years of experience building a better world for children. World Visions ability to communicate with people on the ground as well as donors with relevant, timely, and transformative insights has caused them to become a world leader in community development efforts. Together, the ECC, World Vision, and the CEUM are taking the best they have to offer and committing it to a holistic journey to transformation for DR Congo as well as for us, the ECC.

Emmanuel Konzi Dati

Emmanuel Konzi Dati  Brookdale Covenant Congo Kid

Brookdale Covenant Congo Kid

Brookdale became one of the early and eager churches to sponsor a Hope Sunday in 2012,  when individuals took on the sponsorship of nearly 40 children and together we as a church sponsor one child who is now 10 years old: he was four when we first “met”: look at him now!  World Vision and the Covenant’s commitment to the Congo are in my blood.  But here’s the 3rd leg of the stool: I’m a born and bred Minnesotan. I love being from the land of 10,000 Lakes. I love water. I love to drink it, swim in it, fish from it, listen to it and just stare into it. Water is life.  So the very simple fact that by joining in walking the World Vision Global 6k I can help bring our kids in the Congo fresh, healthy water is a full-on no-brainer.  Join us in spirit (sponsor one of our walkers) or sign up and show up on May 19 with your walking shoes, strollers, or skates!  We’ll meet in the parking lot and make our way together to Victory Memorial Drive and celebrate when we get back to church.  An “event” trek for us: a daily grind for too many.  I am so grateful there is always something we can do to help! With joy we will draw water from the wells of salvation…Isaiah 12:3





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A Word about the Blizzard…

Well, that was something!  Hope you are safe and recovered from that historic storm. 

Calling off church isn’t an easy decision, but I think we made the right call.  What did you do with your morning?  You know, there are times when I envy the Sunday brunch crowd.  I have a lifelong habit of setting Sunday’s aside for gathering with the church.  But there are days when I wonder….

So on Sunday morning I was basking in the leisure, trying not to curse the endlessly falling snow, and praying about the mysteries of nature and timing. Why a blizzard this weekend?  I was really looking forward to our Merge Sunday.  As my colleague, Pastor Hollis is oft heard to say, “How is God in this?” We certainly will try to reschedule that as soon as we can. 

As the day wore on, I realized this (not for the first time); I missed the rhythm of the worshipping community.  I don’t hold to a legalistic church attendance policy.  Gone are the days when we awarded “perfect attendance” pins.  Sometimes people apologize to me for “missing a Sunday”, and sometimes they just boldly explain “I don’t come if I don’t feel like it.” That’s what I was pondering yesterday: why any of us commit to family of faith, and arrange our Sundays (and other days too) around church life. 

How would you answer that question for yourself?  Here’s my honest, but incomplete answer: my life is better for the worship and relationship that happens on Sundays.  Worship orients my life toward God.  I get reminded every week that we, at Brookdale, are a smattering of wonderful created-ness. What a group!  I get reminded and have evidence that God is active, loving, mysterious, good, and surprising.

So I thank God for the day off, and I thank God for our shared life.  For whatever reason I tried to memorize these verses from Psalm 36 as the snow fell and the wind howled:

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
    your righteousness to the upright in heart.


See you next Sunday!



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Hey Friends,

We are super excited to be running and walking in the World Vision Global 6K for Water! On May 19th, 2018, we will be joining thousands of others around the globe to run 6k and provide clean water to children in communities around the world. 

Brookdale Covenant has had a love affair with the Congo for more than 60 years. We sponsor more than twenty "Congo Kids" in Gemena, one of poorest regions in the World.  Help us get our kids clean, fresh, life-giving water. 

I would love for you to either register and run/walk with us for the Global 6K or make a donation to and sponsor one of our of our young willing walkers! 

For $50 World Vision can provide an individual with clean water that lasts! Go to this site to sponsor me.

Thanks for your support!  Better yet, why not join me in walking or running the 6k and find sponsors to help you raise even more for life giving water for the kids in the DR Congo.

World Vision works with communities in desperate need to help provide things like clean water, nutritious food, education, medical care, and economic opportunity.


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I Did NOT See This Coming…..

Well this is a first: a dictionary moved me to tears! I can honestly say I have never had that experience in all my life, until this week. It happened as I was doing my homework for my “Interpreting the New Testament” class taught online by Jay Phelan. You know his name from North Park Seminary or if you read the Covenant Companion. One required resource is called, Dictionary of the Later New Testamenti, and it has 1289 pages, is 3 inches thick and weighs nearly 5 pounds (according to my bathroom scale). Needless to say, I don’t lug it around a lot.

This week we are studying 1, 2, and 3 John. (In the Dictionary these are listed under: John, Letters Of, because that is how you do it in dictionaries, I guess. This is where you go to get facts: dates, places, names, etc. This is the background you need to better understand scripture. Surprisingly, this is where things got personal. I was reading on page 590 (in case you want to check my facts). This is the very sentence that got to me: “But the Johannine church was not to survive the conflict”. That was it- tears came to my eyes.

A bit of explanation perhaps, but first, a sidetrack. Like everyone else I don’t watch too much TV (heard that one before), but one show Tim and I watch frequently is called “Persons of Interest”. My favorite character on the show is Detective Joss Carter: a strong female character who has done the right things all along and has a moral core and has been brave and strong and true in her fight against corruption. And they killed her off this week! Man, I did not see that coming either! I didn’t cry, but I sort of wanted to. It was a mini-shock, because I know she isn’t a real person, but I wish she was. She just deserves to be a real person, in my mind. So I didn’t tear up, but if she had been real? Oh, my.

Back to John.

Here’s why “the Johannine church was not to survive the conflict” did make me cry.

Johannine is theology-speak for the church that John founded. I have always loved John (the Gospel, and the writer). I could connect with this follower of Jesus because he was so emotional. He wore his heart on his sleeve. His love for Jesus was steadfast. He was there right until the end. He wasn’t afraid to show his emotions, and he was the one Jesus trusted to care for his mother. Those are just some the reasons I have to love John. So think about John, yes, THAT John being the pastor of our church. You could not find a more loving, caring, supportive Pastor. He was an eyewitness, a personal friend of Jesus; he was front and center for miracles and meals. He understood the Holy Spirit. What more could a church ever ask for? And yet, according to page 589 and 590, conflicts rocked the churches that he founded. In spite of all the love and prayer he poured out on them, the church “was not to survive the conflict.” I did not see that coming. Are you closer to understanding my reactions?

The rest of the dictionary article goes on to define what those conflicts were about, and how they came about, and how the culture of the time played a part. It says, “We can only speculate that something serious happened”, and the “once unified congregation began to tear apart from within”. The conflicts were about Jesus, and who he really was, and a congregation that once loved Him and loved each other became hateful towards each other.

In the end, some of the followers of Christ gave up. They quit. They moved on. That makes me weep. They gave up believing that Jesus was the Christ, and that He was going to return to earth. Most of the eyewitnesses were no longer living. The First Generation of believers were growing old and dying, and persecution and hardship had discouraged them, and some would no longer believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

John isn’t a literary character, like Detective Carter. He isn’t a mythical character, like Thor. He is our brother, and one day I assume he will be a friend. We are joined, he and I, because of who we know: Jesus. We are family because of that connection. Even so, I have never sat and wondered what it was like to be John, what it must have felt like to know with all his heart, soul, and mind, the truth about Jesus Christ. What is must have been like to wonder if that truth would survive the evil age he lived in. The odds of the Christian faith surviving his generation were not at all good. Dire, I would say. So I shed some tears for my brother, John. And, I marveled at the power of God to keep the church moving forward against all odds.

What would John say to us, the family gathered at Brookdale Covenant Church, nearly 2,000 years later? Read his letters and find out. (And maybe audit a North Park Seminary class. I’ll be happy to lend you the Dictionary).

G. M. Burge, John, Letters of, in Dictionary of the Later New Testament, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill. 1997.

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Leave the Lights On

I remember hearing a commercial for a hotel chain a few years back that always ended with: "we'll leave the lights on."  My guess is that it was a pretty successful slogan; it sure stuck with me all these years.  I love seeing a house with the lights left on!

One of those weird, intangible comforts for me, as fall's bright blue weather gives way to winter's long dark nights, is to see homes all lit up from the inside. I always imagined when I was a kid that houses were full of happy families.  If only it were true!  Still, there is just something so hopeful about a bright light burning in a dark night. If you follow this blog at all, no doubt you will begin to hear repeating themes: my thoughts have been known to run in circles.  One theme I'm grinding on of late is to try and define the purpose of church, particularly this church, in an age when institutions just don't seem to serve the same purposes they used to serve.

Read more: Leave the Light's On

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