I've had the privilege of being pastor of Emmaus Road Church for the last three years. Here's a quick look at this sweet community. We meet 10am Sundays at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in the heart of downtown Hopkins, Minnesota.
My primary work is pastoring a community of Christ-followers known as Emmaus Road Church. As of December 2, 2012, this vibrant and sane group of friends will move our worship services to the Jaycees Studio of the Hopkins Center for the Arts (1111 Main Street in downtown Hopkins, Minnesota). In the meantime we're at our current location a few miles away (6719 Cedar Lake Road in St. Louis Park).
We worship every Sunday at 10am, and we invite you to join us if you're anywhere near the Twin Cities. Find out more about us or download my weekly messages.
At Emmaus we keep things simple, putting everything we do through a grid with three all-important tasks:
We CONNECT. We’re all about doing life together.
We WORSHIP. Jesus comes first for us as individuals and as a group.
We SERVE. We spread God’s care nearby and far away.
We believe that if we miss out on any of those, we’re messing up what God wants us to be.
I remember agonizing on the couch about a dozen years ago. Right after seminary I had pastored a group of several hundred middle schoolers, a rare and amazing privilege. I started writing books during that time. After five years I left to oversee the adult nonfiction line at a major publishing house, another stretching opportunity. By day I signed, developed, and edited überserious adult books, and by night I continued to write thoughtful and occasionally funny books for youth. After five years as senior editor of adult nonfiction I so badly missed working with youth that I took a position as an executive at a non-profit serving at-risk teens.
A few months later when that job didn't unfold so well I sat wondering what I was supposed to do with my life. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to expend myself working with adults... or students... and I hated being torn between the two. In the end I decided I was done trying to make that decision. I was crafted to work with both adults and youth, and I was going to keep living in both worlds as long as I could.
My work includes projects for adults, students, and kids. After twenty years of writing and more than fifty books published I've done contemplative prayer Bibles and practical books aimed at adults... youth books that gently jab at minds, hearts, and hormones... children's products splashed with color, cartoons, and computer generated art... and multimedia intergenerational projects mixed in too. I work hard at all of it. I love all of it. Whatever the target audience, I don't take any chance to write for granted. And I hope to never stop doing any of it, even if the crazy assortment doesn't make sense to anyone else.
I worried I would have to drive a couple hours west to dodge clouds that threatened to hide the Transit of Venus. But instead I went to Onan Observatory at Baylor Park, a site of the Minnesota Astronomical Society not far from home. A few dozen telescopes and hundreds of observers were out for this event that won't come around again until 2117. The Twin Cities Pioneer Press covered the story and reporter Richard Chin quoted me at the end of his article.
I really wanted to nab a photo. The black-and-white shot was my best of many attempts with a Nikon D5000 and 10-inch scope with a solar film filter. The shadow of Venus is the circle at the upper right. The other blotches are sunspots, and the texture is the granularity of the sun's surface. The "heat" and duo-tone "blue" versions were created with simple clicks in Google's sweet Picasa photo software. The colors have nothing to do with anything real. Just photo effects.
The links below open large versions. Windows users can open and right click the photos to save or set as your computer desktop. You can see more of my photos at kjphotos.
Last Friday I ran into my two favorite college professors. Accidentally. Twenty-six years after graduation. On their last day of teaching. Just as they were retiring.
My wife and I were back at the University of Wisconsin--River Falls for the second or third time since we graduated, touring the campus with our youngest daughter. On the last day of the semester we expected empty halls in the English department. But we stumbled on two treasured professors. Dr. Larry Harred was my boss in the campus writing lab. For two years Larry coached me as I worked with struggling writers. I can't imagine how many papers were rescued or even how many students stayed in school because of his lab. I had Dr. Jane Harred for a full year of freshman composition, a class I didn’t think I needed. Jane pushed me to express myself clearly and schooled me in the art of sentence combining. My experience in her class convinced me to major in English, and without that redirection, I wouldn't be writing now.
I appreciate many other professors at UWRF: Dr. Connie TerMaat, who allowed me to take a 400-level linguistics class as a freshman; Dr. Nicholas Karolides, who treated me kindly even when I dropped my teaching degree; Lois Michaelson, who wisely advised me throughout my major; Dr. Margaret Odegard, the English department chair who pushed me forward when I wondered if my writing was any good and literally unlocked a door to using computers to write; and journalism professors Neal Gendler and George Crist, who heckled this English major word-by-word until I could write tight and to the point.
But the Harreds? They were the best. Of all the professors I ever had anywhere. I appreciate them not only as teachers but as human beings. I could not be more honored to have been their student or to have shared fresh moments with them.
My odd hobby of listening to exotic radio stations from all over the world has more or less died. Little interesting is left on the shortwave bands, although more stations are accessible than ever through apps and websites like TuneIn Radio. A couple clicks and you hear music, news, sports, and entertainment from virtually anywhere on the globe.
But I've latched on to a new interest, backyard astronomy. The views from the glare of the city aren't as good as under dark skies, but in the past year I've still managed to work my way through five detailed lists or "clubs" finding objects that include galaxies, star clusters, multiple stars, and small moon craters. My family thinks I'm embarassingly geekish when I'm geared up with my scope and red headlamp hanging out in our driveway or a rural field in the wee hours, even in the middle of a Minnesota winter. Nothing I see looks like Hubble photos. Many objects I hunt down are just faint gray smudges, but all inspire awe when I consider their immense distance, size, and variety. Like Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known" (NLT).
2010 has brought our family plenty of happy mayhem, including my job shift to Emmaus Road Church in St. Louis Park. I’ll soon celebrate my sixth monthiversary as solo pastor at this cool and cozy church just west of Minneapolis. After months of getting to know the search team, board, and congregation, I started at Emmaus on Easter Sunday, then settled in during spring and summer and caught an August vacation. I’m now launching into fall with this tight and growing congregation “living out the way of Jesus Christ.” And in case you're wondering, I'm loving it.
My most recent Sunday morning message will fill you in on some of the craziness of my past year--in much more detail than I had shared about my situation with all but a handful of my closest friends. You're clearly not paying attention if you don't get some laughs out of my nerve weirdness, freak liver abscess, colonoscopy, and getting my gall bladder yanked.
Along the way I gained a few insights into God. By the way, I feel great these days.
I'm not sure whether user names at Facebook will make a guy named Kevin Johnson any easier to find, but I'm now kevinjohnsonbooks on there. My wife and I had been leaving the Facebook turf to our kids, but a couple months ago we caved in and joined the oldster invasion.