Saturday, October 31, 2009


Two pilots recently had their licenses revoked by the FAA because they overshot the runway in Minneapolis by 150 miles. It seems that they were on their laptops during the fight going over new procedures they needed to learn. They were not paying attention. The autopilot allowed them to do this.


We like to go on autopilot ourselves. By autopilot, I mean we like to avoid change, go through the motions or put in little effort. We stop paying attention to what's important. Sometimes we autopilot so we can multitask. I know I dislike talking with someone who is doing other things while we are talking. I like them to stop and give me attention, even if my presence is a disruption or nuisance.


As in the case of the pilots, we all face judgment when we go on autopilot. God tells us that, like it or not, how we have cruised through life will come under his scrutiny and he will judge what we have done. If Jesus is any barometer, God doesn't like us on autopilot. Jesus stayed focused on God with laser-like intensity. We have much to change before we are the kind of lovers of others God calls us to be. To be like Jesus. This cannot be done on autopilot. Love cannot take place on autopilot because love is intentional.


God's judgment is the moment of truth when we are faced with big things and have to rely on our character rather than magic to get us through. Judgment Day come often and before death.


Are you ready for the moment of truth? The moment that will test how you are navigating life? The moment God wants to use to usher you into a larger life? That moment will be a disappointment if we are cruising on autopilot. That moment will be bliss if we have been intentional about following Christ.


 There is a way that seems right to a man,
       but in the end it leads to death.  Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)



HALT is an acronym of the recovery movement. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. They are reminders of when those of us in recovery from addictions are the most vulnerable. However, we all are vulnerable to be less than Christ-like when we are experiencing any of these. Each is an appetite to be fed. The problem is not if we feed them (they are natural human experiences) so much as how we feed them.  Often, we feed their ache by going overboard in sating our appetites. Overboard usually leaves hurts in us and in others.


How do you respond when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired?  Do you eat? Shop? Spend? Binge/purge? Overindulge? Surf the web? Lash out? Over commit? Blow off commitments? Watch endless TV? St. Augustine tells us that there is a God-shaped hole in all of us. Too often, we fill it with what is handy, thinking that stuff or experiences will satisfy us. Ultimately, they will not. Instead, they grab hold of us and drain us of life. God give, never drains, life. External things and forces always let us down because they do not love us like God does.


The hole is for love - God's love. Fill it wisely.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Impossible

When was the last time you tried the impossible or, at least, something improbable? Sometimes, the most timid of society are Christians. By timid I mean either we want God to paint a totally foolproof (and fail-proof) picture of what we are to do or else we don't want to attempt anything where we might fail and be embarrassed or feel we have wasted our efforts. In other words, are we people who only attempt what we know will be a piece of cake?


There are three fears we need to face here. One is the fear of failure. The people who really live, who really taste life, who live abundantly, are risk takers. "Play-it-safers" get very puny rewards. God promises big ones. Which brings us to the second fear. We fear God will not deliver on the dreams he places in us. In this case, our faith is not in God, only in ourselves. Without God, I am puny. The last fear is a fear that our results will not be instantaneous. Real life takes an investment, mostly a long-term investment. We falsely believe, when we see people soar, that it was easy and that these people put little effort in. What we don't see are the 100,000 free throws practiced, the 19 years of education, the 5 years of apprenticeship, or the 3 years of savings.


I pray you will live a large life today (and tomorrow.) I pray you will risk because without risk there is no gain or life. I pray you become a persistent and glorious person in your "failures." I pray you will dream big with God today.


God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Ephesians 3:20 (Message)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:" 'The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'?   Ezekiel 18:2 (NIV)


Many people live under a death sentence. Not one imposed by the state. Rather, one imposed by themselves. It is called the "I can't help it" death sentence.


People believe that an action in the past must permanently affect life now and forever. "My dad abused me, therefore I will be wounded the rest of my life." I was fired and had to file bankruptcy, therefore I am a lesser being the rest of my life." "I committed adultery (murder, a felony, addiction, divorce…) and, therefore, am unworthy - forever." "I have___________ and, therefore, am incapable of living - forever."


My past defines me. I'm stuck. I cannot help it. I just need to emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically sit on the sidelines of life on the "injured reserve" list.


Rubbish. This is not to say the experiences were not real or that they did not hurt. It is to say that they are over. We are responsible for us. God has gone through great pains to make sure that, no matter what, we still have a life, and a good one, to live – now and eternally. In other words, those events no longer hurt us; it is we who continue to hurt ourselves.


God wants to heal us of all hurts. God heals with the words, "I forgive you." Whether we need to say them to others or ourselves, we need to say them. The key to this life is to forgive, just as God does. Forgiving means to write off the debt that someone truly owes us and to move on. Forgiving does not mean that that things return to normal or that we instantly resume trust. Forgiving means, "I refuse to carry around a burden that is not mine. It belongs to God and he can have it."


Rereading the Ezekiel passage, I know that bad experiences are often perceived as genetic and permanently disabling. I know, too, that my perceptions are often clouded. In this case, what I perceive as true is a lie. I am free…if I want to be. God says so.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The October 18, 2009 Parade Magazine ran an article entitled, "What Should You Worry About?" People panicked a few years back about shark attacks while elephant tramplings claim far more lives. The Author, after citing many examples of our misplaced worry says, "we humans tend to respond to uncertainty with more emotion - fears, blame, and paralysis - than advisable. Uncertainty also has a nasty way of making us conjure the very worst possibilities." Finally, the author points out how many of the things people worry about tend to take care of themselves. Horse manure, once a big problem in cities almost overnight went away with the advent of the car. Things we never thought of come up to solve problems. We do not see the big picture. Our world can have a pretty tight orbit. That can lead to all sorts of fears.

God sees the BIG PICTURE we miss. Just because we do not see or comprehend it does not mean God is off duty. Not to mention that worry does not solve a thing but does make us sick, testy, and irrational.

Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:28 – 34 (NIV)

What are you worried about? What do you fear? Lay it before God today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together".


I was recently at a conference for leaders where I heard David Gergen, press secretary to presidents, say this. The longer I thought about it, the more weight it had.


We are loner society. Our icon is the lone cowboy on the open range. Beholding to no one. Self-sufficient. Invincible. But, alas, untrue. Icons always move us but, sometime, icons, lie. In this case, we lie to each other.


How do I know this? Because God says so. God saves a people, not a confederacy of individuals. Ben Franklin, not God, said, "God helps those who help themselves." Read our baptismal vows and what do we find? We are utter dependent, not only on God, but on each other. Paul says we are body of people. Ignore one person, have one person go off and "do her own thing," and we have an ill and soon dead body. "One another" is one of the most uttered phrases in the Bible. God is love and love isn't done in a vacuum. Jesus promises to be in the midst of "two or more."


The "loner" is a seductive icon but a dead end. "If I want it done right, I'll do it myself," is the mantra of a dying person.


Are people messy? Do they let us down? Are they just downright weird and unpleasant at times? You bet! But, they are imperative to life. God says so. God wants us to go far.


Today, resist going it alone. Who (besides family and friends) are your lifelines? To whom are you a lifeline? We are in this together. God says so and he made it all.


Go far!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The windows on the 4th floor of the building in which I worked for Amoco faced the parking lot. One of the managers (thank God, no mine) had a habit of coming into work early and leaving late. He had no family. He would come in early and stand at the window taking down the names of all who arrived after him (mind you, they actually could have been early for work, just after him) and talk with them about "punctuality." He figured if he was there, you should be there. After about a month of this, there was no one coming in during his observation time and he stopped. What he didn't know was that those who couldn't get there early just came in 20 minutes late after he left the window!


Some think God is like that manager. Fussy, nitpicky, unreasonable. Thinking God is that way, these people come up with all sort of imaginative ways to skirt the rules or impose them on others unreasonably.


When Jesus said in John's Gospel, "I came that you have life in abundance," I assume he meant it. God provides rule not to spoil our life but to support it. God is not waiting to 'get me." God see the big picture. I, in my self-centeredness, often do not. Like a loving parent, God hopes to keep us from harm and keep us solidly plugged into life.


What rules do you live by? What rules do you expect others to live by? Do they support life and even magnify it? Are there too many? Too few?


May you live passionately and fully today because of the rules, not in spite of them. God wants nothing less.


Growing up, Babe Ruth was the home run king and held the record for most home runs in a baseball season. Along came Roger Maris of the Yankees who broke Ruth's record. Sort of. You see, Maris played in 162 games. In Ruth's time, the games numbered 154. It was decided that Maris would be the home run king but with an * next to his record. Everyone knew (wink, wink) that Ruth was the REAL champion. The * only underscored that.


Are you an * Christian? That is, are there bunches of extenuating circumstances that need to qualify your record?


I am a Christian, but I am sure God won't mind if I skip church. I am a Christian, but this is only a little lie. I am a Christian, but a tithe is really Old Testament stuff. I am a Christian, but I'm tired: someone else will fill in if I don't show. I am a Christian, but this I'm so stressed, I can fudge this report and no one will notice. I am a Christian, but the kids (or mom)….


I find I love hanging an * next to my name. I get the label of champion Christian without actually living up to it.


May you, today, be the real deal.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized that I was somebody.    Lily Tomlin


For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (NIV)


"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 3:7 (NIV)


I have noticed something in 25 years of ministry. The local church never runs out of good things that need to be done. I also believe "God will provide." I am assuming the gap between the good works God expects to be done and the unfinishedness of them boils down to a lack of somebodies. Elsewhere, a rule of thumb for all churches is that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Conceivably, these 80% are somebodies without a mission.


Rather than complaining (oh, and I do, sad to say,) what might be going on? True, some people are just lazy. But beyond that.


Here are a few observations I have made.

  1. We don't ASK somebodies to help. Rather, we assume they "just know" what needs to be done. People like being asked.
  2. We don't train somebodies. Most people feel unsure about trying something out without some orientation or training.
  3. We expect perfection. Sorry, no perfect people here (or any where, for that matter.)
  4. We don't let people see if a ministry is a "fit," one that utilizes their gifts and talents. No one wants to do something very long if it is not "them."
  5. We don't let people move on. How many of us have suffered "twisting in the wind" in a ministry and no one offered to relieve us?
  6. We don't thank. It doesn't hurt and it is a general disposition Christians should embody.


God DOES provide. We have God's work to do. In Genesis, God handed Creation over to us and told us that it was not quite finished but we were up to the task if we relied on Him.


Andy Stanley tells a story about giving guests leftovers. Imagine the family that buys all freshest ingredients, spends hours cooking from scratch, sets out the best wine, and eats its fill. Then, the next day, warms up the leftovers for guests that were invited to dinner the week before. We would never do that to friends! Sounds backwards, doesn't it?


Now the question is, "Do we give God the leftovers?" The Bible teaches that God gets the "first fruit," that is, the best, the prime of our life. We live off the substantial remainder. It seems many have decided to go the other way around, letting God be the guest with what (if anything) is left over. Does not God deserve what friends get?


God gets the leftover Sundays, the leftover money, the leftover volunteer time, even the leftover moments required for prayer and attention to scripture.


Do you give God leftovers? If so, do you want that to continue? This is the God who loves you unconditionally and waits for any morsel of your loving attention. He will even take what we give friends. Disciples serve the best to God first, knowing that they will have more than enough leftover.


Honor the LORD with your wealth,
       with the firstfruits of all your crops
; Proverbs 3:9 (NIV)


Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ask the Way

It is better to ask the way 10 times than to take the wrong path once - Jewish Proverb


In the age of video games, this proverb might be rendered…


It is better to take the wrong path 10 times than to ask the way once.


Our culture has become, over my lifespan, one of extreme independence. Most of us figure that we, alone, can keep after it, just like video game playing, until we prevail. I don't see a lot of prevailing out there but I do see a lot of tiredness.


God created us to be interdependent. Interdependent means that I need you in order to navigate life just as you need me. He calls us a Body. But we hate needing each other. The heart may be a powerful organ but, if I hack it out, will not survive long alone. We may exist as loners, doing our own thing, but we thrive once we see we need each other.


May you seek interdependence today

May you be bold enough too see you are incomplete today

May you seek completeness with others today


For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

Holy Ground

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5 (NIV)


This verse is great theater. We can imagine the thundering voice, Moses cowering and vast wilderness – barren and dry. Awesome and scary at the same time. Glad it happened to Moses and not me.


But is that true? "Holy" means to be set aside for God's purposes. When we are baptized, we enter into Holy Baptism. In other words, we become the holy ground set aside for God's good purpose. But just like Sinai, we can be a barren piece of human real estate or the fertile ground of God's good favor. It is up to us. God made the first move in claiming us, even when we rejected him and his son. Baptism is all about what will be our response.


Baptism is a moment in time that has lifelong implications – if we trust we are holy. Many people approach baptism as some kind d of godly magic – a heavenly insurance policy or rabbit's foot. It is no such thing. Baptism is an invitation to make every day an eternal event. Don't squander your baptism. Live it. You are Holy.


  • Will I believe that every place I travel today will be holy because God is there using me?


  • How will God change the arena of my work, leisure and routine as I make each new place holy?


  • Will others be blessed by the holy ground I inhabit?

Put Off

 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
       whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NIV)

I am not sure if this passage says more about procrastination or perfectionism.

Some watch the wind because they daydream a lot. Daydreamers can become procrastinators, never putting their dreams into action. Some hesitate planting or reaping (or doing anything) because they wait for the perfect time. Hesitators often act when it becomes obvious that the right time is long gone. Their dreams, too, never become a reality. And God has even bigger dreams of which we never even imagine.

Jesus taught that when we move with him throughout the day, we will be caught up in the perfect time (kairos, to use his words) rather than the crunch of time marching on (chronos.) When we move with Jesus, we are actually a part of a larger reality called the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is the "bigger picture" that only God knows but would love to share with us. The Kingdom is where all actions work towards God's good end. However, we share it by blindly trusting his son. No easy task. Kingdom life will always involve risk.

·         Does Jesus figure into my day at all (other than asking him to bail me out or do magic?)

·         How much do I risk, living uncomfortably but faithfully?

·         I think I know (I don't) all the horrible things I avoided by putting things off but do I have any idea of the wonderful things that awaited me if I acted?

·         Can Jesus have my day today?


Monday, October 5, 2009


I recently went over the marriage vows with a couple soon to be wed. I am constantly struck with the beauty of our Prayer Book and God when I read the phrase, "and with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you." I am not sure the word, "honor" shows up on many Facebook pages or in Starbucks infused conversations. Heck, it seldom makes it to church. "Honor" seems a bit quaint. But it is powerful.


Now, false honor is nothing new…


These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Matthew 15:8 (NIV)


False honor is about me, not someone else. False honor is offered to put me in a good light (or at least to avoid a bad one.) True honor requires sacrifice because I have to lay down my own agendas and offer respect and worth to another (often when I wish it for myself, as in the case of marriage.)


The church is especially to be a place of honoring.


If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV)


Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10b (ESV)


How can I honor someone today? To shower them with praise (maybe even undeserved) might be tempting but it is cheap. When I honor another, I must invest. I honor when I keep my promises, show up on time, offer to help, stop and ask how things are going, do what I say I will do, stop surveying the horizon for a better opportunity. Imagine living in a world where we all honored each other in such a way. God does, every day. And he will not rest till it is a reality. Join him in making it real.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Wikipedia is the free, online, encyclopedia. Entries are made up by the users. It is only as good as the users are. Anyone is free to make and entry or change an entry.  It has 3,000,000 entries. Wikipedia has a code of conduct:


Respect your fellow Wikipedians even when you may not agree with them. Be civil. Avoid conflicts of interest, personal attacks and sweeping generalizations. Find consensus, avoid edit wars, follow the three-revert rule, and remember that there are 2,960,266 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss. Act in good faith, never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming.

We need a code with something as wide-open as the internet. Like any code, some pay not attention to it and "do their own thing." Codes are a standard we try to hold ourselves to in order to make live available to all. Codes are not self-enforcing. They are voluntary. Someone will always feel he or she is above the code. The code does not apply to them.


Can you (repeatably) articulate the code to which you hold yourself? Does it have the power to convict (and change) you even if no one is looking? Do you have no code at all? Does the code change depending on the situation?


     Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
       and who seek the LORD :
       Look to the rock from which you were cut
       and to the quarry from which you were hewn;      Isaiah 51:1 (NIV)

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors

Do you wonder about things? I do. I wonder how the Texans can have such a non-existent defense when they have had so many Jumbo picks on defense in recent drafts. I wonder why my honey-do list only gets bigger even if I work on it each week. And what's up with "How to Look Good Naked?" It is actually a cable show. I have enough trouble looking good clothed. Why aren't we all doing the "Paid Programming" infomercial schemes? What would happen if we did?


But here is my biggest wonder. Why do we (my highly unscientific, anecdotal experience) accept so much of what is on the internet or what comes in our inbox so readily but have so much trouble believing Jesus?  Oh, we believe Jesus in our head. I know that. But, as the Episcopal Prayer Book points out in the General Thanksgiving in Morning Prayer, we do a better job "talking" Jesus than "doing" Jesus in our day-to-day lives.


I think the reason why so much of the internet traffic grabs us is that it confirms our fears and prejudices. It makes sense to us. Jesus, instead, confronts our prejudices, tells us that love goes out the window when fear takes over, reminds us that the best way through life is the tough one, and generally gives advise that seems counter-intuitive (like "lose your life to save it, turn the other cheek, the first will be last" – hey, maybe the Texans have embraced this one!)


Oh, I do want life to be easy. To lie down and just let me scoop up what I want, the way I want it. The internet lets me do that, letting me be smug in my prejudices or feeding my fears. But this is a lie. Jesus knows that because he invented life. He has the inside skinny on life because he is its author. Jesus has overcome the world. Why do I so freely forget that?


May I let the Good News of Christ and nothing else be foundational to my day today. The internet is fun but true only when it serves Christ.