Saturday, January 30, 2010


Nobody believes the official spokesman...but everybody trusts an unidentified source. - Ron Nesen


Seldom does a week go by where I do not get an email forwarding some potential attack on my hard drive that is looming or a child tragically kidnapped or a scary threat out to get me. On Facebook, I observe how people order their lives (what's important or what's worth getting angry about or celebrating.) When Marshall McLuhan wrote of TV," the medium is the message," predicting the great power television would have over us, he was correct. We are shaped by TV. Our reality is shaped by it. Many if not most really believe (trust in) things like survival of the fittest, beauty is everything, luck matters more than industry, youth rules, might makes right, fame trumps character, everything must be "instant,"  "my child beats your child," and relieve my boredom for me at all costs. Now, I believe, the Internet is overtaking TV. It moves faster and wider.


Jesus' boat is swamped (for today) by the Internet. He claims that reality is The Kingdom of God (Heaven) and is right in front of your nose. Few will look. We have a choice to be caught up in it and live or, sooner or later, be crushed by it when our life's investment proves worthless. In The Kingdom, the meek and caring rule. In The Kingdom, looks and might don't matter – character does. In The Kingdom, there is no pecking order. In The Kingdom, service beats status, integrity beats fame, and authenticity beats expediency. Nothing is more valuable than The Kingdom.


How (where) is our investment? On whom (what) we betting our lives?

Brown Chair

After over 30 years, my brown chair went to the curb. The chair was older than one of my kids. Three grandchildren watched VeggiTales in it (they ALWAYS were allowed to usurp me there.) My two girls were nursed to health in it. I slept (more recently) through many Sunday afternoons, NASCAR races, football games and baseball games in it. 32 years of Christmas cookie crumbs are in it. Christine was ready to junk it 15 years ago. I learned to pray in it. Like the father in the TV show, "Frazier," it had value far beyond utility. In its admitted ugliness, it reflected much that was beautiful in God's world. I even imagined one waiting for me in heaven when I get there. The chair symbolized heaven.


It's gone.


While I hate to admit it, sooner or later, everything is gone. It may be replaced by something newer – even better. But the one certainty is this: it too will be gone someday. I will be gone one day as well.


The vocation of the Christian is to cherish the beauty God sends our way but to not cling to it for it is passing. Christians look beyond the "end" to see that God has framed the universe so that the "end" is ALWAYS the penultimate – that which points to the end. God's END is good indeed. And lasting.


Lord, may I remember as things, people, ideas, reputations, status, and

viability pass away that you have more in store. May I cling to you

and experience the "more." Love me when I let go too soon. Forgive me if, in an attempt to guard my heart, I do not headlong cherish the

beauty that (fleetingly) is around me. I look forward to your END and, with your help, will shape each day around that vision.


I watched the President's State of the Union address the other day. I also followed the resulting talk afterwards. We have become very polarized. We talk the conciliatory, "let's work together" talk. We seldom walk it. While politics is a lively sport and necessarily involves heated debate, what we get is more like entrenched lobbing of vitriolic sound bites. No one is served. I see this same predisposition in marriages, families and even churches. Christ would have us act otherwise.


Following Jesus is a tightrope act. Balancing justice and mercy, doing and being, truth-telling and pastoral sensibility. It is not for the light-hearted. But balance we must. There is forgiveness if we don't, but each day brings new opportunities to be Christ-like in our speech even if the attack mode is more popular.


Listen to God.


Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Galatians 6:15 (NIV)


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NIV)


Regardless of which side we feel compelled to profess and defend, what counts is to do so as a child of God (new creation,) relying on Christ to speak through us, always considering the recipient of our zeal as better than ourselves.


Speak well today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010




The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.  Jeremiah 5:13 (NIV)


A prophet is not a predictor. A prophet is a truth-teller. The only truth a true prophet of God has is the Truth of God. The prophet tells a community, usually in distress, what God has to say to a current situation. Often the truth is hard to hear but it is never the prophet's opinion. The prophet can have no axe to grind. The words must be God's.

I like how the God's Word Translation states Jeremiah 5:13.


Some prophets are nothing but windbags. The Lord hasn't spoken through them, so let what they say happen to them.


Ancient kings of Israel had hired-gun prophets on the payroll to say what they wanted to hear. They were windbags. Elijah met a group of windbags on Mount Carmel and they experienced how self-serving prophecy can come back and hurt you.


We here a number of people speak on behalf of God about Haiti today. Before, it was about people with AIDS or soldiers killed in action or abortion clinic bombings. Two things stand out for us.


First, we need to silence false prophets in our day. Not through force but through words and actions tempered by God. We need to speak up and refute that which is not from God. This means we actually have to be in touch with God ourselves.


Second, we must support those who truly are prophets. These people are always reviled and marginalized. Most people distance themselves from them because they are unpopular. Jesus was unpopular. He may grow on you but, at first reading, we withdraw.

God even told Isaiah the prophet that o one would listen to him. That must have been frustrating. Prophets lead us to new freedom. We need them. We can support them no matter how unpopular. Life is not a popularity contest but a faith journey.



Monday, January 25, 2010


It's easy to condemn those who are suffering, when you have no troubles. Job 12:5 (CEV)


Compassion literally means to suffer with someone. Jesus displayed a lot of it. The God of Hebrew Scripture declares that he is compassionate and slow to anger. Peter, in his letter, says fellow Christians are to be especially compassionate.


It is easy, when things are going well for us, to think that we earned the good things and that others earned bad things. Trouble is, God does not dole out goodies (or crap) based on merit (as much as we desperately want it to be the truth.) Things happen sometimes as a result of what we do or don't do. Sometimes, however, they just happen and as hard as we search for a reason (we ask, "Why?" and no answer is forthcoming,) no reason is forthcoming. It just is. We Christians are to spend less time examining the cause (fault) of sad conditions and more time responding to these conditions. Compassion withholds judgment. Yet, so often, I hear that before anything else. Somehow, "these people" brought this on themselves. "Rubbish," says God, "this is a call to action."


It would seem, then, that compassion and gloating and condemnation are pretty much mutually exclusive for a Christian. When we see suffering, we see an opportunity for God to act. And we do not idly see God acting. We line up as volunteers to do his work of compassion.




I hear a coach in an unmemorable post game speech riff a few words that were memorable to me. He spoke of two eras. One of "obedience and commitment" and another of privileges and rights."


Obviously, today is the era of privileges and rights. Everybody has their own set of rules and the rules are flexible depending on the situation. I am sure I hear, "I've got my rights" more than once a day. I seldom hear, "and I have my responsibilities."


Jesus told us the path to the rich life he offered was through a narrow door. I assume the narrow door is one of obedience and commitment. Life is found in LIMITING freedoms rather than exercising every one possible. Counterintuitive. One of Jesus' whoppers. Whooper though it may be, it is still the truth. Life cannot be found outside community and community requires a great deal of give and take in order to flourish.


We know our rights and privileges. Our culture is infused with them. We soak in them. Spend a moment and detail your commitments and who/what you are obedient to. Where are there other opportunities to expand this list? Thank God for those. Ask hi for more. Tell him you want a life in abundance.


In an age when Reality TV dominates, it may be worthwhile to ask, "What is reality?" Max Dupree in Leadership is an Art said that the first task of leadership is to define reality. What is reality?


Reality may be a voyeuristic looking for heroes or goats on TV but the only reality that may point to is that we are bored and prefer to live vicariously.


Jesus, who I would venture to say was a leader, defined reality this way. The Kingdom of Heaven. This reality was darn near invisible and could only be seen by those who yearned for more than what this world offered. This reality was the truth with a capital "T." This reality was what God was up to regardless of how bored or busy we get. This reality was a lifeline to all those who cherished it.


If The Kingdom had any Rallying Cry it would be found in the words, "save your life and you lose it, lose your life for my sake and you win it." Or, in the words of Robert Lewis, "Die to live." The Mission Statement for reality would be "Love: no matter what."


Where is reality for you? Is it on the surface or does it have deep roots? What do you yearn for? What is your Rallying Cry? Mission Statement?


The Kingdom is very near to you.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Failure - Part 2

What follows is a continuance of the previous devotion.

The web-based Church Crunch (1/20/10) ran an article entitled "5 Ways to Fail as a Ministry Web Team." The 5 ways were…


1. Try to Do Everything

2. Say 'Yes' All the Time

3. Process? What's That?

4. Forget that Ministry is About Relationships

5. Be Clueless About the Rest of the Organization


I found that they proved just as true for the life of a Follower. I detailed the first 2 in the previous devotion. Here are the final 3.


3. Process? What's That? -  This means, "have a plan." Satan has a plan for us so, if we don't have a plan, God's plan, we will default to Satan's. This could be called a rule of life. My plan is my Baptismal Vows plus a few more. My plan included regular, daily time with God, forgiving, reaching out to serve others using my gifts, regular worship, giving blood every 8 weeks, tithing, one day off a week among others.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

4. Forget that Ministry is About Relationships – Jesus had a lot to say about religious task doers. He calls them hypocrites, empty graves, and dirty cups. This is not to say that he did not love them. He did. But he knew their well ran dry when they made the subtle and often unnoticed shift from serving God through servicing others to self-justification by "being good." Relationships –with God and others – are what the God who is love expects. Being good is simply not enough.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)


5. Be Clueless About the Rest of the Organization – Business guru, Patrick Lencioni, calls the phenomenon, "silos." We resist team work and, instead, go it alone, relying on what worked before and what we like without regard to the rest of the community (church, family, business, etc.) False-starts, missed opportunities, mistrust, tradition-worship result of our failure to use the Godly synergism of being the Body of Christ. Body, not organ.


Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)


It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Failure - Part 1

The web-based Church Crunch (1/20/10) ran an article entitled "5 Ways to Fail as a Ministry Web Team." The 5 ways were…


1. Try to Do Everything

2. Say 'Yes' All the Time

3. Process? What's That?

4. Forget that Ministry is About Relationships

5. Be Clueless About the Rest of the Organization


I found that they proved just as true for the life of a Follower.


1. Try to Do Everything – God created us dependent on each other. No amount of Lone Rangerism will change that. How often in ministry do we say, "I must do it or it will not get done (or done right?") That statement makes us a messiah. We are not.


There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

                                                1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV)


2. Say 'Yes' All the Time – As a priest, I often find that people really think, that to be really holy, one says "Yes" to everything. As a result, we promise all sorts of things (and get brownie points for saying, "Yes") without ever really having the will or ability to do them all. People get hurt as a result. Relationships are strained if not broken.


Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. James 5:12 (NIV)

More next Devotion…


Monday, January 18, 2010


If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no

pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

1 John 3:17 (NIV)


In this passage, splagchna (Greek) is translated pity. It literally means "bowels." I might say, "guts." The Jimbo Translation would be


If you claim to belong to Jesus and got stuff and another

Christian needs stuff, have the guts to share.


I tend towards a few things. Maybe you do too. I tend to think I don't have (enough) stuff yet I have more stuff that 90+% of the world. Funny how I only compare myself to people with MORE stuff than I. No wonder I think I am bad off and have to control and hoard my stuff. Lord, have mercy on my claim to be the center of the universe.


I tend to wonder if others truly NEED my stuff. After all, every other intersection has someone with a sign who claims to need my stuff. Why can't he/she get a job? Will probably just buy beer, anyway. I'd LOVE to help someone who really was in need. Honest. Lord, have mercy on me and my judgments.


I tend to think that I would part with my stuff if I knew it would be well stewarded. How to get stuff to the truly needy? I would, if I could. Yet so many good ways (yes, there are bad one) exist to channel my stuff to those in need without undue overhead. Lord, have mercy on me and my excuses.


I tend to favor cute, cuddly needs. Children (adults can fend for themselves – I forget who cares for all these children) are nice. Better if they look like me and don't look too pathetic. Don't make me feel guilty. Lord, forgive my prejudices.


Dear, God, may I cut the crap and spill my splagchna for others

just like you did on the Cross. Amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I like to read about sports. Certainly, there are many ignoble athletes today. Guns, drugs, sex. But there are many inspirational stories as well. Fighting back into shape, handicaps, comebacks, overcoming obstacles.


One genre of sports story is the athlete of faith. Kurt Warner, Team Hoyt, Tony Dughy, Colt McCoy – there are plenty. Most of us are moved by these. Beyond that, I see another phenomenon. Spectator Faith.


We are used to spectator sports. We watch lots of them. More as we age. We even miss church for them! We like them. Spectator faith is similar. We are awed by the faith examples of an athlete. We watch, in awe, the great obstacles they have overcome or the great perseverance they put in, and "ooh" and "ahh."


We collect these stories and retell them. They truly are inspiring. But, are we making our own inspiring stories? Or are we leaving an active faith behind just as we leave an active sporting life behind. Do we settle for watching, maybe even faith trash-talking, (I get a million faith emails forwarded – and I do read them) without ever acting on out faith and creating our own stories of transformation and new life? Does our life do the faith-talking or only our email forwards? No disrespect to a good email, we are meant to write our own stories with our own courage, faith and perseverance.


No head fake. Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is full-body contact. Drop and give God twenty.


As an old oil patch hand, I love my coffee. Once or twice a week (depending on the state of my Financial Peace "blow" money,) I drive thru Starbucks.  Java, joe, mud, coffee - whatever you name it - has changed. My coffee has a whole bunch of adjectives added to it. Double shot, half-caf, mocha, soy spice latte. What a label!


We label people, usually with just one adjective. Ultimately, the adjectives reduce to "good" or "bad." Unless it is an extremely difficult day, we label ourselves "good." "Bad" is reserved for those who we do not know well, who hold differing views or who have betrayed us or our values. Liberal, conservative, fundamentalist, Islamic, murderer, drunk, goodie-goodie, virgin, lazy, uncommitted, _______________ (you may fill in your favorite here.)


Jesus tells us that no one is good but God. We all have work to do on ourselves. Further, he tells us that name-calling and judgment are unhealthy and wrong. Only God judges – even that he is holding off. Jesus encourages us to clean up our own act (the lumber mill in our own eye) before tackling the piece of sawdust (speck) in someone else's eye.


God, may I not judge another of your precious children today. May I take inventory of myself and have the boldness to correct those things which keep me from you. Amen.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.

Psalm 62:5 (NLT)


Somehow, being quiet and having hope go together. Evidently, we experience God's hope for us when we stop long enough to listen to him or, at least, bask in his presence. How often is that?


We are very important, North American go-getters. We have no time for such foolishness. I mean, we would love to settle down with God once our calendar clears up. I am sure he understands.


I doubt God does understand. Cutting ourselves off from God is no brighter an idea than cutting ourselves off from air. Yet we always seem to be fixin' to spend time with God.


No calendar will clear up until our calendars belong to God and God places our tasks on them himself. God knows there are 24 hours in a day (he made the day.) I he knows you have a lot to do. But, if he sorts for us, we will fit quite nicely in a 24 hour day. Quite frankly, we are no good at managing a 24 hour day. Like the bicycle we assemble the night before Christmas, our self-created day has too many parts left over.


Hope is the downright certainty that God is in control and everything will turn out, even the things I cannot micromanage. Hope is a relief. I think I will calm down and let God do his best work.


Broken Hearts

Bob Pierce, founder of Compassion International, often prayed this prayer. "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." As I see pictures of Haiti today, I am tempted to turn on a sitcom, say a little prayer and move on. Haiti is too messy, and huge, and far.

In a nation that calls itself Christian (well, a lot of them do, anyway,) our heats should be breaking because God's is. If fact, I think his heart breaks a lot. For single moms caught in economic quicksand. For average looking, averagely intelligent, non-athletic teens. For couples in crushing debt. For a man struggling with addiction. For a family praying their Marine will come home.

I don't want to be self-insulated from the pain of the world. I know I can let suburbia isolate me so my heart infrequently breaks. I am a realist. I cannot fix much. I am not sure God expect me to fix it all anyway. But I do think he wants me present to the world's pain. This is my family because I am God's child and so are all these others. My broken heart will lead me to a Godly vulnerability. Just because I don't have answers does not mean I cannot be brokenhearted. I'll risk it, even if I have few answers.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Revelation 21:5 (NIV)

I forget that God makes things new. I always ask him to fix what is broken. But God has something far superior in mind. Something completely new.


I think we spend a lot of time and energy trying to return to a "better" state, a time and place when we think life was in the sweet spot. Probably, it was a good time for us. Yet, I cannot go back. You cannot either. Plus yearning for the past keeps us from grasping the "new thing" God is doing.


I somehow think I can conjure up a blissful scenario on my own that can surpass God's "new thing." I prefer the illusion I can imagine to the reality God is working towards that is mine if I will let go. He is doing a new thing. I recycle old ones. As good as they may have been, I can only patch them up. God transforms the old into the "never yet seen."


Probably good I am not God. You also. We would have to live on a diet of leftovers. Let go. Let God do his best stuff. Scan your horizon for new things. Be open to the unexpected ferrying you to the unimaginable.


Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. 1 Peter 2:17 (NLT)

This is a very compact and concise statement. Yet it teems with meaning for we who follow Christ.
Loving our brothers and sisters seems a 'no brainer." We are to love other Christians. This has appeal. Love those in our "group." Jesus points out that love needs to be the way he loves, with our lives. Sacrificial but still it is love for those like us.

Fearing God and king reminds us that we are to be under authority. Not a cruel leader or unfaithful one or a slavish following. But each Christian is to answer to someone. No free agents. We may not like it but, if we cannot submit to someone on earth, we will not submit to God. Fearing God mans to do what he asks even if we do not understand or, from our point of view, agree.

The "respect everyone" gets me the most. Not a day goes by where I do not see people disrespecting others and being proud of it. We followers of Christ are not to act like the world we live in. We are called to be, well, odd. Everyone gets respect. No one is treated subhuman or slandered or maligned by us. We do not have to agree with people but we must respect them.

Lord, point out to me (or send someone to me to point out) when and where

I show disrespect in my speech.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Giving Up

Joe Biden's mom died recently. On the campaign trail, Vice President Biden quoted his mom as telling him while he was growing up, "Failure is inevitable, however, giving up is unforgivable."


We go through life thinking we will not fail or cannot fail. Yet, failure is as prevalent as the air we breathe. To avoid failure is ultimately impossible. So much we do involves avoiding failure (impossible) or pretending it didn't happen (rationalization.) Both are energies wasted.


Failures to not have to define us. Giving up occurs when we let failure define us or our life. Sometimes we let others do this for us. We give up when we accept this definition of failure as a person.


Einstein failed as a civil servant but soared as a physicist. Edison failed in hundreds of light bulbs but each was an embryo of the one that succeeded. Failures lead to Post-it Notes. Few politicians have never failed at the polls. Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken when most of us think of retirement. Actress Halle Barry has diabetes and had an abusive father. The greatest hitters in baseball fail to hit 2/3's of the time.


I think the sin against the Holy Spirit mention in the passage that follows has nothing to do with cursing or not going to church but has to do with denying the Spirit at work in us when we give up and let failure define us of the following passage.


But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 12:9-10 (NIV)


Have you let failure(s) define you? Have you let them define others in your life? Don't give up. God is faithful.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blue Screen of Death

I started the New Year with the "blue screen of death." For those uninitiated, that is the screen that comes up saying your computer won't start and you are in deep doo doo. It will take time, money and, I am sure, frustration to get my laptop back to working. I am sure my files will be wiped out.


When God sends the "blue screen of death" into our lives, do we know it when we see it? God tells us in many places (not the least of which is Galatians 3:19-21) that there is a "blue screen" if we will pay attention.  Paul even rubs our nose in it, saying the "blue screen" is obvious. I quote – "sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties." In other words, the "blue screens" are "it's all about me" activities that are relationship busters.


When the "blue screen" comes up on my computer, I can either ditch it or fix it. When I see the "blue screen" in my life, I need to do the same. Yet, how often do we get defensive or claim we don't have the money or it will take too long to correct our "blues screens?" So we plod along, unwilling to do for our lives what we would do for our computers. "when see the "blue screen" in our life, we need to repair our life and Jesus Christ will do just that. We can change that and thrive, if we want the good life. We return to Christ as Lord (boss.)


Lord, remind me that the good life is not found in making the world do my bidding but in relationship building service to others

Friday, January 1, 2010


I believe isolation makes us dumber. Bear with me.
By isolation, I mean when we keep to ourselves, don't share what's really going on with us, and resist the influence of others. We often get in this place of isolation by telling ourselves, "No one will understand" or "I will never be accepted," or "I can handle this myself," or "I need to be good to myself and retreat."
By dumber, I mean we make, pound for pound, worse decisions without the help of others. Isolated, troubles loom larger than they are. In isolation, escape and a quick fix seem to make sense even though they usually lead to more and larger heartbreak. In isolation, we can fool ourselves that things will go away.
Jesus could have stay isolated up in heaven (or wherever heaven is.) He chose, instead, to enter into our lives in order to reshape them into things of beauty. He entered into our lives to make the impossible possible. He entered in to help bear the burdens that would crush us.
Prayer breaks isolation. Prayer does this in two ways. First, it renews our relationship to Life himself. Second, it moves us to change and move back into community.  Prayer always leads us to align our lives closer to what God has in mind. Therefore, prayer always changes us.
Prayer makes us smarter. We are no longer in isolation.

Heavenly Father, help me to pray as if my life depended on it.


Each year at Christmas, I go through an annual ritual. It is one I don't like but have to do as a priest. I count who is committed, part of St. Andrew's. I report this to the national church and diocese.


Each Christmas, we welcome many visitors to worship. I am glad to see them but I hope more to see a familiar face returning to worship and, maybe, returning to the fold. I love and welcome anyone, everyone. But I also know that no one came to church originally without a desire. A desire to know God, to connect with others, to resolve a problem, to straighten a life out? What made the desire go away for those who once were regulars?


Regardless of how we might feel, unless there is a compelling problem (and some of our church members have some,) we don't "belong" to a church without "worshiping" God there. I try to contact most who are no longer coming, hoping to know what happened, knowing the reasons are often hard to uncover.


God loves his children, even if they come but once or twice a year to worship him. But he has so much more for those who make worship a regular part of their lives.


Have you talked to someone who has not been in church for a while? Have you met the unfamiliar person in worship who yearns to belong or fit in? Have you looked in the mirror and asked yourself, "What's keeping me from worshiping and is this obstacle worth it?" Have you shared your obstacles with one whose heart is open?


I pray you have a great new year and that you make the new year great for others.