Saturday, February 27, 2010


Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.

William Cary


William Cary was a Baptist missionary of the late 1700's and early 1800's. I love his quotation above and I try to live it as well. In a world where we attempt too much, giving everything just a passing nod, it is refreshing if not renewing. In a world where we often claim victimhood for our inaction, the citation packs power. People who consume life at a supersonic pace yet feel they have missed out on things of lasting importance, Cary redirects us. These words are at the heart of the promises we make at baptism. It echoes 4th century St Augustine of Hippo, "Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not".


If we are pooped, bored or frustrated, perhaps we have forgotten to check in with God. Each day, God speaks to those who pray (listen) and dine on Holy Scripture. Yet each check in with God will have an action attached to it. God wants to perfect both us and Creation. The action may be to give up being so busy or it may be to make the scary move into a place of suffering and help heal it.


Be great today. You were placed here on Earth for nothing less. God is rooting for you. You and God make a great team.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

God's Litter Box

Listen to two versions of Luke 6:26.


Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (KJV)


There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular. (Message)


Yes, The Message is a paraphrase (a liberal one at that) and The King James is a translation from the original language (and, therefore, more reliable.) I don't think God cares. Language is a tool to unite the heart of God with the heart of a believer. Connecting through scripture must be a life long vocation in order to be worthwhile and to minimize misuse. But God wants lovers. If language is in the way, it must move.


Sometimes, I think we use flowery language in order to obfuscate the truth. (smile, I used "obfuscate" ironically as an example.) Hearts are never joined when the language used is a hiding place.


Impressive language can often domesticate God as well (therefore the litter box concept.) It can make us sound religious without being a follower. If it sounds good enough, who cares if we understand it or do it?! God does.


Craft your words well today. Whether in lofty language or common, make connections of the heart. Those connections matters – eternally.


"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)


I am not particularly patient, especially when repeating over and over again what I have already said. This Proverbs passage sheds some new light on my (im)patience.


o        Wise people are patient (so the impatient are fools. Darn!)

o        Seeking wisdom makes one more patient

o        Overlooking offense both takes wisdom and infuses wisdom in one

o        Glory is "weight/bearing" and can only come from tapping into God


Lord, Today let me plug into you as Alpha and Omega. Let me be content to be in the in between times. Let my interactions with others be ones of kairos (the fullness of time, the right time, the pregnant moment.)   Let me be "in" the world of chronos (the press of time, time marches on) but not "of" it. Let me be of you. Let me be wise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


My life is complete. I now view texting and checking email in the pews on Sunday morning during worship. Pretty important stuff we have. Much more important than God. Sigh.


Jesus tells us to be plugged into God 24 hours a day/7 days a week and we will have more life than we can imagine. Yet we believe the other way around. We believe if we are constantly electronically connected (we can do this physically too – both with things and people and activities,) we will somehow be validated. It is not wonder we struggle with alcohol and drugs, strained relationships, conspicuous consumption and days packed enough for 2 of us!


God wants to validate us from the inside out. When we allow that, we never cease to know we are loved and are of infinite worth. When validation comes from outside, we are just junkies, religious junkies maybe, but just junkies. We seek the next high. Often, it is not there. Life has lows as well.


God does not fill the lows but he does, through relationship with him, fill people to thrive through the lows. Give him the time. In a low-filled world, it's needed. Put down the phone and live a little.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


A disgruntled taxpayer crashes a plane into an Austin IRS building leaving behind a note stating, ""Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer." I don't believe any age is better than any other. I do believe that they are just different. We live in an age of violence – political, spiritual, sexual, emotional, and rhetorical.


Jesus - Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 (NIV)


Christmas Carol - Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let There Be Peace on Earth the peace that was meant to be


Psalm 34:14 (NIV) - Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.


Jesus - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. John 14:27 (NIV)


Peace is a fruit of God's Spirit working in us. At the end of time, God sees Peace as one of the attributes of his Kingdom. Peace is resident in all who follow Christ. All we have to do is encourage it to come out. Not that we will always win out in the short haul. We won't (or, at least, haven't so far.) What we do when Peace becomes a priority is to lay the groundwork for a Peace renewal. The Lord knows we need it. In every level of life.


Consider being a peacemaker, laying aside the words (and, maybe, actions) of violence and hatred (including painting people with a difference in opinion as vile or evil, when in fact, they are just different and, may be right.) Reconcile relationships and help others to do so. Don't be the one in the middle, get them together. Peace is starting with you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Jesus was asked a question about greatness. In today's culture, we crave greatness or, at least like to watch others achieve greatness. "Greatness" being defined by athleticism, possessions, fame (or infamy,) or power (especially over others.) Guess what? Jesus blows a hole right in the middle of this.


In Matthew 18:1-6, Jesus speaks of greatness in two ways. One general and one specific. Generally, greatness is achieved through humility and a childlike approach to life. Children can and must (they may not like this, however) depend on the benevolence of others. Sometimes, we let them down. So humility and childlike openness are signs of greatness.


Jesus goes on. Specifically, how we treat children also is a sign of our greatness or lack thereof. In other words, do we act like God in the care of those who need care? Consider how many children are truly poor or ill or abused. Actually, we prefer not to consider this because it is overwhelming. But we can help one or two. Do we? Secondly, ever notice that the mature, elder statesmen (and women) of church seldom want to teach any more or lead youth groups? "Been there, done that!" Jesus might say this response lacks greatness. They have the wisdom of years of faith. Kids need that. Too often, greatness means resting on our laurels. It does, if you are not in the Kingdom.


 1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
 5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6 (NIV)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Team or Solo?

Team or Solo?


ESPN radio (and later National Public Radio) questioned which was more popular and why: team sports or single athlete sports.  The former would include football, baseball, and basketball (although we do worship individual superstars in these sports.) The latter would include many Olympic sports – ice skating, track, diving, gymnastics, and downhill skiing. I would rather be on a winning team than be a winning individual. How about you?


Christianity is often seen as a spectator sport. The minister ministers and the congregation congregates. The Coach (aka, The Father) sees it differently. Following Christ is to be done by each uniquely gifted individual who, in turn, gives her gifts over for the good of the Team (Church.) Paul says we give what we have 'for the common good." Personal/private religion isn't really in the game plan. Personal gifts will make the Church become the living, breathing Body of Jesus Christ.


Today, ask, "Am I trying to be a solo player in the Faith Games?" "I'm I simply rooting for the Team without participating?" "Do I get my signals from the Coach or do I insist on calling an endless stream of audibles based on my feelings?"


Play Ball!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I noticed a new phenomenon of Facebook. Young people quote song lyrics that express what they are feeling and long for. Most exude strong emotions. The lyrics do resonate with the human condition. But this made me think.

As a parent and grandparent, how many of our kids are so familiar with scripture that the Word of God expresses just exactly how they feel and what's going on? How comfortable are our kids with the Bible? Actually, how comfortable are we? Whenever I talk about spending time with scripture I almost universally get the same response. Time restraints, confusing, just not used to it, never learned it as a kid, blah, blah, blah. Each is an excuse and usually an excuse not to do anything about it. Even in Sunday School, only 40% of our church's kids and 20% of the adults are in any regular class.

What would happen if we became so infused with Holy Scripture that we knew God and God knew us and that every feeling and condition was one God recognized and spoke to? I believe this is true but we will never find out unless we try. Where is scripture in your daily routine and the routine of your kids and grand kids?

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. Psalm 39:1 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for
our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn,
and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever
hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have
given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
Prayer Book, Proper 28

Monday, February 15, 2010



for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.

Proverbs 24:16 (NIV)


More and more in ministry, I hear the word, "can't." "I can't do that." It can't work." "We can't change it." Maybe this is true. I suspect it is not as much as we think.


Wisdom tells us (scripture above) that the righteous (those who lean on God instead of their own wits) are persistent in the Lord's work because the Lord's work is not easy. Trials happen. Failures happen. Inexperience happens. Resistance happens. None are a sign that God is not present and is not encouraging His work. My mom called them "character builders" and they were. They build a human being. Without the hurdles to overcome, we are just another carbon based life form. Sometimes, we think that, if we do what the Lord asks, it will be easy. Consider Jesus. What he did was worthwhile but it was not easy.


A most dangerous stream of "can't" thought comes from those who say that once we commit ourselves to God, everything will go smoothly and we will be richly (monetarily) rewarded. Once again, consider Jesus, God's own son. He was not successful until after his death. He died broke and with his best friends deserting him. Yet he was a peace and his work has continued to infuse life generations later.


Consider today if, in doing God's work, "can't" really means "won't" or "I am scared." Persist. God has something wonderful in mind for the servant who risks life for something eternal.


"Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else's in the process."
...and it begins with us.


This statement is found on the website I met someone from that group this past week.  The website goes on to say…


Civility is about more than merely being polite, although being polite is an excellent start. Civility fosters a deep self-awareness, even as it is characterized by true respect for others. Civility requires the extremely hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and perhaps fierce disagreements. It is about constantly being open to hear, to learn, to teach and to change. It seeks common ground as a beginning point for dialogue when differences occur, while at the same time recognizes that differences are enriching. It is patience, grace, and strength of character. 


Consider this from our Baptismal Vows.


Celebrant      Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?


People           I will, with God's help.


And this from Jesus.


But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:22 (NIV)


Raca is a term of contempt.


Rather than demonizing someone today, which has become an America blood sport, look for Christ in them. He is there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010




"As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." - Colossians 3:12 (NIV)


When I read this passage, I realize something about myself. In a world of excuses and entitlements, I need help.  Woulda, shoulda, coulda, hafta. I try run on my own steam (without God.)  Why not, I always have a trump card to play. The trump card?  Either I am entitled to skip service due to my own self-inflated importance or I am excused from service because I only have so much energy. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are service words. The flaw in my logic, however, is that they are not my possession nor are they even from my own power.


These are service words symbolize gifts from God. I steward them just as I would to with money. I am clothed with them because I do not have the supply necessary to serve. On my own, I run out - fast. God will cloth me as often as I ask when he has service for me to do. But I seldom ask. Either I rush headlong into service and poop out or else I avoid service, nursing my perceived lack of resources.


Let God cloth you today for service.


The headline on read, "Colts Fans -- All 11 of Them -- Welcome Team at Airport." The Colts, losers in the Super Bowl, had a very inauspicious homecoming. It's a tough world out there. Sports, beauty, music, film, cars, you name it – First Place or No Place. Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN radio have said on numerous occasions that the NFL no longer builds for the future. Teams recruit, sign and trade to win today. Like businesses that only look at the bottom line TODAY, even if that means mortgaging tomorrow. First Place or No Place.


I don't remember Jesus saying that. In fact, he said "turn the other cheek," "go the extra mile," "lay down your life for others," "the first shall be last," and "blessed are the meek." It is easy to be double-minded (a hypocrite in Jesus' speech) in today's world if you are a Christian. That is, saying all the right things while all the while being immersed in (and influenced by) a "win at all costs, First Place or No Place" culture. It tears at our soul.


Today, be kind to the "loser," the person who is precious because Christ says so despite the fact that society says it's okay to ignore or, worse yet, put down, the non-winner. Leave that kind of sorting back in Junior High. Lift up the average today. Cherish the invisible people in your path. Compliment the overlooked. Move beyond prejudices (the problem is not that we have them, the problem is that we BELIEVE them.) Today, see losers as winners. Know that Jesus sees you that way as well.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash—right up to the present moment.

1 Corinthians 4:13 (NLT)


If you are like me, people talk about you and love to critique you. No doubt some of this is valuable and needed. Some is tough to hear but comes from a trusted friend and we know we need to listen and learn. Some even comes in our prayers from God. But some is just hurtful and untrue. At those times, I hate it when someone will say, "Don't be defensive." Heck, I am being unfairly attacked. That tends to put me on the defensive! Two things come to mind in light of the cited scripture.


First, even if my first reaction is to be defensive, do I respond in kindness? Not wimpiness or slobbering agreement – but as kindly as possible?  Not becoming offensive. Being a Christian is less about feelings and more about being Godly in spite of our feelings. Christianity is a CHOICE to act a certain way. Gotta make the choice every day.


Second, does any one speak poorly of me? If not, is that because I stand for nothing?  Jesus couldn't even cut it three years in ministry. The crowds hated him because he stood for God. No one wants to make enemies on purpose but a Christian, by listening to God and not the word around her, will naturally develop people who are offended by her standards. Do you stand enough for something Godly (not political or social) so as to cause some to respond in (extreme) dislike? One of the "Christian" attributes encouraged by some that makes me ill is that we should all be "nice." I am not completely sure I know what that means but I think it includes having no backbone, standing for nothing except where the wind blows us.


Kindness is our strategy but act up, Jesus did.

Monday, February 8, 2010


The book The Power of Half describes the life changes that happen when we focus on others in need. Jesus tells us that if we give up our life for others in his name, we finally get our life back.


In The Power, fourteen-year-old Hannah Salwen describes seeing a homeless man at the same time she spotted a man driving a Mercedes. She said, "Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal." Acting on this urge to do something, Hannah's family decided to sell their big Atlanta home. In turn, they bought a house half the size they had and give half of the sale price to a charity. Talk about moving out of our comfort zone! They not only made a difference in on small corner of the world, they also changed the quality of their family life.


St. Andrew's is currently involved in a Year of Service, looking for ways to serve Christ in the world around them. God placed each of us here for a purpose. In fulfilling our purpose, just a Christ did, we get a life back, the one God intended for us. Sacrifice is part of it put this sacrifice pales next to the resurrected life of Christian engaged in mission.


Have you asked God (and others whom you trust and will tell you the truth) why you are here? Have you explored the gifts you have been given by God at birth as well as those given through baptism and our life experiences (especially the painful ones.) Have you seen Christ face-to-face in the challenge of fulfilling your mission? May you know life and it in abundance.

Saturday, February 6, 2010




"Look at those cows and remember that the greatest scientists in the world have never discovered how to make grass into milk." - Inventor Michael Pupin


Jesus said the same thing thousands of years ago.


 "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. Matthew 6:28-29 (NIV)


So many people are awed by nature. God has quite an imagination and delivers much comfort and inspiration through nature. But, as Ron Popeil is want to say, "But wait, there's more!" Jesus, in Matthew, challenges us beyond the beauty and majesty of nature to fearlessness. "Don't worry," he says. He continues in the subsequent verses to remind us that God cares even more about us. Here that? God's going to do a better job taking care of you than all of nature. People are his priority. Promise.


Two things to ponder. Are you a worrier? Take the worries to God. He is offended by nothing human. Tell him (even tell him off.) Second, try to visualize that pesky person in your life as one of those wonders, just as God does.


You are precious.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Buff Jesus

Peruse a greeting card aisle and, if there are religious cards with Jesus on them, Jesus is usually portrayed as a sort of heaven-gazing, sexless, lighter-than-air nice guy. Where the hell did that come from?


Jesus took Life and God seriously. He made enemies. Lots of them.


Jesus ran afoul of puffed up religious fussbudgets. They pissed him off.


Jesus skewered his fishing buddy for warping Jesus' mission.


Jesus demolished the fund-raisers at church.


Jesus endured torture without whining or whimpering.


What Jesus was was compassionate – entered into others suffering. He was a companion – breaking bread with anyone, even those we think are creepy, immoral or stinky.  Jesus was driven by a mission – the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus saved nothing, carried little and survived on the goodness of others. He had integrity – he did what he said he would do. No matter what.  He respected women and children  even beyond what was required of culture. Finally, Jesus was forgiving, rising above his own best interest can canceling the debts of all who offended him.


Who's your Jesus?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The 2010 Census got underway last week. Records show that, in the last Census, there were 9 Jim Liberatore's in the U.S. 11, if you count Jimmie's and 22 if you count the James' as well.  Jim Liberatore got his pharmacy license reinstated (not sure what he did!) by the Arizona Pharmacy Board. Jim Liberatore is the Chairman of after developing the SPEED channel on TV.  James Liberatore, member of the Wallpaper Guild, died last year in Illinois. 12 Jim Liberatore's are on Facebook. One is an officer for the New York State Department of Correctional Services in Attica (rough prison.)  Jim Liberatore works for the Burlington Township Police and is single. James is in the Army Reserve. James Liberatore, single, lives in Melbourne, Australia and his main interest is women (God bless him.) James Liberatore manages Munro Brake, is married to Amanda, and watches SPEED TV (where, I guess, he sees Jim Liberatore at work.) Jim Liberatore works as Chief Judge (contest Judge) for the New Jersey State Fire Chief Judge Association. Jim Liberatore got the lowest score (381, whatever that means) at the Tupper Lake Archers Club Mt. Challenge (it was said to be the "best ever.")


Oh, and one is a priest in Texas.


We all dream of being someone else, maybe escaping our current life situation, even for a while. What shoulda, coulda, woulda happened IF…. But have we dreamed of being ourselves? Life does not begin until we accept who we truly are, that whom God made for a purpose. This means we know our identity in God AND our mission from God. They cannot be separated without harm to us and to others. Listen to God.


 "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.
      Before you were born I set you apart
      and appointed you as my prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)


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)


It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.  Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)

         I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
         I know that full well. Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

Are you out-and out content? Have you spent time with Christ discovering your identity and mission? The Church is here to help. You will not rest content until you do.