Thursday, April 29, 2010


"Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions" Proverb 18:2 (NLT)


I use Twitter and Facebook. I keep up with people with whom I would never keep up. I get insight into the people I serve. I get chances to celebrate and cry. I even add my own thoughts.


On the other hand, I understand why Solomon wrote what he did above. I see adults of the Christian persuasion touting their drunk exploits (often in front of kids.) I am asked to join hate groups by people I actually think know better. I get Sunday morning posts from folks who skipped church.  And I see much real and potential damage done by and to teen posters who have little or no adult monitoring.


I am no prude. Free speech is important but it can both sting and backfire. The tongue, says James, should be monitored. Words on the internet live forever. Shame and ridicule are very public in this milieu. People project personas (false revelations rather than true soul-bearing) they believe will make others like them or think they are cool or a troubled bad boy or bad girl. I worry about youth who do this. I have worked with thousand of youth over 35 years. Words can seriously hurt and get us into jambs we never imagined.


My alma mater (okay, Junior High alma mater, click here) was in the news because the principal recommended that middle schoolers not be on social networking because of the damage that can be done. We often forget that adolescence stretches into the twenties now and we who are adults do need to care for them. That means reasonable boundaries. Freedom with no boundaries (preferably self imposed) is lawlessness. The principal asked parents to consider opting out or monitoring of social networking. No laws. No coercing. Just a suggestion from a caring, educated person who is experienced with youth. That is what Solomon might call wisdom.


God, today I want to understand and not just pop off with my opinions. Lead me to listen for wisdom and devour it when I experience it. Let my words be few and well chosen. Especially, let me care for the youth in my orbit, not being a friend but a mentor, encouraging boundaries that lead to life and maturity.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Jimmie Davidson, pastor of Highlands Fellowship in Abingdon, Va., recently had a "Crazy Service," to focus on the importance of volunteers in the life of the church. Sunday worship went without any volunteers! It must have been a rough service but a great way to show the importance of volunteers in church.


A blog I follow had an entry about the growing trend for church members to not show up for helping when scheduled, leaving lots of people in the lurch. People who can get everyone everywhere – work, school, sports and such – seemed to place a low priority on church service, even when they committed to it.


I prefer not to use the term "volunteer" and, instead, prefer "minister." There are no volunteers in the Bible. I don't follow this rule at all times since many believe a minister is the ordained person up front. However, that view is not biblical. Every Christian has a ministry. Ministry is what builds up the church. We may volunteer elsewhere in the world but we, by virtue of the Bible and our Baptismal Vows, are expected to serve in church. Some ministries are behind-the scenes or sporadic. Some are up-front and regular. The point is that God exempts no one from ministry (he does forgive those who opt out) within the church. Our ministry is not only expected, it is sacred. To eschew ministry, either by avoiding it or being a 'no show," hurts us and others spiritually and lessens the mission of the local church. That said, ministry should fit who God made in you and never be a guilt response to other's pressure.


Thank God for those who take ministry seriously, sometimes a great personal sacrifice just as their Lord did. How is your ministry?


Monday, April 26, 2010

What? No Building?!!

Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Georgia sold its building. Article and interview here. No, it's not moving into a bigger one (or even a smaller one.) Rolling Hills is going without a building, instead, using the money for acts of Godly charity. It was a stewardship decision. They will move to a movie theater. This not only frees the money from the proceeds from the sale. This also includes all the money the church uses each year to "feed the beast."


This interesting concept is like "church planting" in reverse. In church planting, we start in a theater (or school) and aim towards a building. I was part of a church plant when I lived in Colorado. We worshiped in a school, setting up and tearing down each week and saving for a building. Our first building was an old auto (read "stinky") repair shop. St. Matthew's in Parker now has a pretty church.


I wonder how many people would be Christian if we had no buildings and all the trappings that go with them? Church is people, right? Mars Hill Church (Rob Bell's church outside Grand Rapids, MI) started by not even telling (or knowing) people where there were going to worship. Yes, they now have a building, but it is an old anchor store. Is the mission of the church to have a building or to be like Christ? Maybe it can have it both ways? Maybe not? Hmm.


I wonder if our identity would be more like Christ if our identity were not tied up in a building. What do you think? Would we be more Christ-like? Would it make no difference?

I Love My Church

I encourage you to view this video. I am going to North Point Community Church in early May. They are alive with God's Spirit. Other churches are alive as well. I have tried to learn from them. They are fun and faithful places to be. For all the bells and whistles, for all the formality or informality, for all the money or lack of money, one thing seems to stand out at these "alive" churches. They love to serve.


By "love," I mean that the people truly see service as a way to spread Christ's love and to be spiritually fed at the same time. You will not hear, "I'm just a volunteer" or "I have to do this" or "I was guilted into this." Service is service to Christ and that's an honor. "No show's" are few because people really want to serve.


In Philippians chapter 2, we learn that Jesus didn't shun service even when he could have stayed all nice and cozy in Heaven. In 1st Corinthians 12, we learn that everyone is shaped for service. We all benefit when servers serve in their "zone." We all hurt when servers choose to sit on the sidelines. Service is at the heart of life and joy because God made it that way. (Click the links and read the scripture. Have you read any scripture today?)


Do you know how you are shaped to serve? Do you have a servant's heart? Is your church alive and life-giving, overflowing with servers? Do you love your church?


I Love My Church


I encourage you to view this video. I am going to North Point Community Church in early May. They are live with God's Spirit. Other churches are alive as well. I have tried to learn from them. They are fun and faithful places to be. For all the bells and whistles, for all the formality or informality, one thing seems to stand out at these "alive" churches. They love to serve.


By "love," I mean that the people truly see service as a way to spread Christ's love and to be spiritually fed at the same time. You will not hear, "I'm just a volunteer" or "I have to do this" or "I was guilted into this." Service is service to Christ and that's an honor. "No show's" are few because people really want to serve.


In Philippians chapter 2, we learn that Jesus didn't shun service even when he could have stayed all nice and cozy in Heaven. In 1st Corinthians 12, we learn that everyone is shaped for service. We all benefit when servers serve in their "zone." We all hurt when servers choose to sit on the sidelines. Service is at the heart of life and joy because God made it that way. (Click the links and read the scripture. Have you read any scripture today?)


Do you know how you are shaped to serve? Do you have a servant's heart? Is your church alive and life-giving, overflowing with servers? Do you love your church?


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 12:15 (NIV)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)


Claudia Feldman writes in the Houston Chronicle (April 19, 2010,) "If Catherine Musco Garcia-Prats offers advice on raising boys, listen. She's had 10 of them."


Cathy, wrote a recent book, Good Sons Don't Just Happen. She passes on the wisdom she has gleaned.


• Keep boys involved but not overinvolved.

"I think parents have totally overcommitted their children and in the process, overcommitted themselves," Cathy says. "Five-year-olds don't need activities five days a week."

• Ease up on the competition, too. It's too much pressure on the kids and their parents. "Children don't need to be the best at everything they do."

• Don't worship things. The Garcia-Pratses still have one, old TV. They keep cars until they stop running.

• Parents who want to raise competent adults should start teaching responsibility early. Kids can make their lunches, make their beds, put away their laundry, help with the dishes and — drum roll, please — learn that what they take out needs to be put back.


Are you open to wisdom or do you default to "what seems right? Do you take in wisdom and change your habits? Are you teachable? God has incredible bliss, contentment and opportunities for those who seek wisdom and employ it. God says, "You need to change but I want to help."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rasing a Modern Day Knight


We had a good session today. Next week is our last week. Be there and finish strong. If you missed a session, come borrow a DVD from me.


This week


Live for your son (or daughter) the definition of being a man (church is a great place to start)

            Reject passivity

            Accept responsibility

            Lead courageously

            Expect God's reward


Finish your crest


Remind your son (or daughter)

            I love you

            I am proud of you

            You are good at _____________


See you Sunday.



The Rev. Jim Liberatore, Rector
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church





Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.

Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

Proverbs 13:24 (NLT)


I know I am getting older. Maybe wiser. So, you can write me off as out of touch today, if you wish.


One thing I notice more today than a few decades ago is how little, as a whole, parents discipline children. Parents do yell at them. We have always done that. But discipline is another matter. Yet God says that withholding discipline is hatred for your children. I am not sure what God says about the efficacy or advisability of yelling. We can substitute lecturing for yelling if appropriate. I was good at both.


Yelling and other forms of "persuasion" are really more an expression of a parent's anger or frustration. It is about the parent. And, sometimes, things get so exasperating that yelling may be a necessary outlet. Discipline is about the child.


Discipline is training or instruction. We all need this. For whatever reason, we were born selfish. Parents (community?) are given to children to instruct them in the ways of life. The point of discipline is to help a child become a caring and successful member of the abundant life community. Discipline is done so a child will thrive. Discipline involves repetitive training both by word (but not too many or too loudly) and example (parents may go overboard here.) These are words of our baptismal promises. In our case, we train children to become Christ, mainly by being Christ in their lives.


It seems easy to let things go and hope for the best, letting the child avoid any little pain of being reined in or limited today. It seems easy but it is hatred for that child. Easy often has more to do with we who parent. We want it easy. Kids are not easy. They are an enormous undertaking. We need each others, and God's, help.


Consider today, what disciplines do you place yourself under? Are you willing to love your child so much that you maintain a firm, yet loving hand and place limits on behavior? Will you let others help and help others in the honor of raising a child?

Monday, April 19, 2010


Recently, I was reminded why I am an Episcopalian. Wisconsin Lutherans click here did not allow women to speak at a public meeting.  They said scripture says so. Now I truly believe that these Lutherans love the Lord and are great Christians. I also believe that they are misguided. This brings up two questions. What am I to make of scripture that seems to say two things at once? There is a place where women are requested to keep quiet. There are also places where women seem to be leading. The second question is this? What role does scripture play in my day-to-day actions?  These folks stuck with their beliefs even tough, I suspect, they met with a lot of ridicule.


What am I to make of scripture? My first premise is that scripture is not self interpreting. My bumper sticker would read, "God said it, I believe it…but I'm not always sure what to make of it" Only God understands scripture inside out.  Here is what I do. Read it. See what else is said about the same thing. Determine if it is God talking or a person giving an opinion or a cultural-infused response (I am not a Middle Eastern ancient farming dude.) I ask, "What did it mean to them then?" Then I ask if there are similar circumstances today and how might the Word apply in today? Then, I ask "So what?" I am a sinner and could have come up with garbage. I need to think about it. Finally, I ask how well what I came up with squares with what others have said over thousands of years. I may have it right and they have it wrong but I better think about it.


What role does scripture play in my day-to-day actions?  Like the folks in Wisconsin, if I believe this is the word of God, I must take action on what has been revealed regardless of the cost. Today, most of us try to get along by making "Christian nice" and swallowing our beliefs. Either that or we ridicule and debase those who think differently as if Christ didn't die and rise for them as well. While I will not live my life based on what I believe they wrongly think, I must leave room for the fact that they may be right and I must respect them.


May scripture inspire your day today.


Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:13 (NLT)


I ponder this verse in my morning scripture reading. I suppose it could be used by just about anyone to justify anything. The mantra for Goldman-Sachs? A slogan for a credit leveraged family? A mugger's signature? But that would be a misreading.


Christian Hope is the certainty of what awaits us at our destination. It is not optimism. It is certainty. Yet, while it is certainty, it may fly in the face of current circumstances. Hope got biblical people – Jesus, through tough days. While carpe diem may be t-shirt worthy, Hope is life worthy. Hope is "big picture" stuff. And the source of Hope is God and God promise that he is in control of our destiny. Hang on to him.


When we daily are grounded in God, Hope transforms every moment. And, let's face it, there are a lot of tough moments that need transformation. God give us hope for day like today (or tomorrow.)


I wonder if the Proverb could be written thusly, "Gratification seized make the heart sick, leaving the heart craving another fix."


God will not let you go and will not forget you. He has a special place for you in his home and it is so good it cannot be contained in tomorrow but spills into today. Let him show you.


May you be filled with Hope today. You deserve it. God insures it.


Whenever I start a new document on my word processor, I notice how much margin is automatically set around the edges of the document. Margin - the empty space round the words. Usually, in order to save paper and "get it all on one page" I shrink the font and reduce the margin.


Dr. Richard Swenson, MD, wrote a couple of books about margin. I have benefited from them. Margin is the space we leave around our lives in order to have room to breathe, to live. 21st century North America believes that margin is bad and that all life must be crammed full. We need to do everything, miss no opportunity or experience and be busy all the time in order to really matter. We even wear as a badge of honor the answer to the question, "How are you?" "Busy." We overbook ourselves out of fear (I'll lose my job, You won't love me) or guilt (It's all up to me.) Marginlessness is a sickness unto death (literally, per Swenson.)


When Jesus says he wants us to have life in abundance, he means it. Regaining the margins in our life (if we truly do want to) requires listening to the Lord of our life. God tells us in Isaiah that, despite what we may think, he would never crush us. Any sailor knows that if we have 2 North Stars upon which to navigate life, we will always be lost. We can have but one. Jesus. Today, we probably are navigating by 20 North Stars. Dizzying. Rather than skipping church, prayer and scripture time (which is where we often vainly start in regaining margin,) we need to listen to the Master and follow him.


  • Take time for God each day, including church on Sunday. God is the only presence in your daily life that does not have mixed motives. He's for you!
  • Jesus shows us that it is all about healthy, deep relationships. Tend them first.
  • Meaningful work - find who you are and do it. A hobby, ministry or vocation. Work for satisfaction and not money. Trim your lifestyle if that has created a problem.
  • Take care of your body. Move around. Rest. Sleep. Cook a real meal.
  • Turn off the cell phone. Unplug the computer. We do not need to be accessible all the time. This is a recent phenomenon.

One great outcome of doing the above is that you will know when to say "No." Rather than saying "No" to those closest to you (we do this when we are marginless,) we will say it to the "margin eaters." Peace ensues.


Basically, Christ is calling us to be counter cultural, just as he was. And he's alive today. I pray you will be as well.


Saturday, April 17, 2010


Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)


Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NIV)


Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life? I will, with God's help.


Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ? I will, with God's help.

Baptism ran a story out of Allen, Texas about the school district's recent approval of a $60 million dollar 18,000 seat stadium for its football team. Groundbreaking soon!


I like football. I like Texas. Whether or not I like Allen, I don't know. But this story seems so out-of this-world "cart before the horse" sad. Education literally means to lead a person to some kind of enlightenment. To call out the great. It's biblical, the duty of every parent and church. Extracurricular activities are character and community builders but, have we lost our minds (if not our hearts?)  Where are our priorities?


Christians take priorities seriously. Creedal statements (literally, "I believe," "my life depends on this" statements) and Baptismal Vows (promises to God and each other) are meant to be our plainly stated priorities. We say in these, "I am investing in One God, I am betting my life on all people being created and loved by God, I'll stake my life on the church as being Christ's Body and our hope for the world." And more.


I do not know where the time and money (today's gods) for the Allen project come from.  Obviously, enough people in the school district believe that this $60 million dollar endeavor will pay out better than some other $60 million dollar educational adventure. I wonder what would happen if that kind of investment was placed in the spiritual life of teenagers?



Thursday, April 15, 2010


"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success." - Henry Ford


I like this quotation from Henry Ford. I believe it is true. I believe it is true for the Church. "Together" in the Bible is often worded "one another."  72 times "one another" shows up in the NIV translation of scripture. Some are benign. But some are powerful. Love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, be devoted to one another, teach one another, honor one another, serve, put up with…you get it. Ford's words could be true for family and country as well.


My question is this. Do we stop and ask one another if we have made the whole progression of Ford's quotation? For Church, "success" might be the Kingdom alive and visible. Or Christ, powerful and active in our church.


Beginning are great. Getting people together is noble, if not fun. Often, getting people to church is a chore. But someone is always there, coming together, keeping God's promises alive. Progress often is how people grade church. Are we better than we were? Are there more people? More programs? This step takes "keeping together," for progress cannot be made without some dedication and commitment.


But the sweet smell of church health (success) is giving up our agenda, rolling up our sleeves, putting-up-with-each other, working together. Paul knows that the Body needs all piece integrated in order to thrive and fulfill her mission. "One another" math makes 1+1 = . Christ renews the earth.


Are you coming, keeping or working together this day? This from the end of Morning Prayer. One of my favorites.


Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely

more than we can ask or imagine:  Glory to him from

generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus

for ever and ever.  Amen.  Ephesians 3:20, 21

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Nearly two-thirds of all who have not attended a church activity in the last six months identified themselves as "Christians," according to a recent study by the Barna Group.


Barna, in an earlier study, did site other statistics that showed that some of these people have bad experiences with church and/or church people. Most of us have had bad experiences with love and keep at it. Even yearn for it. Some may say church is irrelevant but, judging from my Facebook friends under 20, most of them think school is irrelevant as well. Education and school are not one in the same. Neither is Church (as organism) and church as institution.


I want to be clear. As I read scripture, God claims the church is Christ's (his son's) Body and, at times, the Bride of Christ. Christianity without church isn't Christianity. But I am not here to point a finger at those outside our walls. I want to start my conversation with me. What about the Church needs work?


Here I my questions to myself. Sort of a diagnostic I must present to myself from time to time. Do you have any to add?


o        Do we offer true fellowship and worship or repetitive busyness and entertainment? Sometimes I wonder about myself.


o        Do we, each time we gather, make Christ compelling, relevant or do we simply present him in a series of confusing pronouncements and triumphant "to do" lists?


o        Do we really love the people, sacrificially, who don't come to church? Are we clubby? Do we lay down our lives for each other?


o        Do we interact with those outside the church in such a way that they see we DO walk to a different beat and our lives seem more vibrant and alive?


o        Are we willing to address their bad past experiences and take them seriously? Do we police ourselves for bad behavior within the church or do we tolerate it?


o        Have we examined what is important and what is transient in church practice (see page 9 and on in the Prayer Book?) Jesus was relevant to rabbinic drop-outs, fishermen, those at the end of their rope and farmers.


I believe that this survey says people are spiritually hungry and that we, the church, are called to look at ourselves and be willing to change and offer an altered (but thoroughly Christian) menu. Christ remains constant but the menu is not God.


Thanks to and

Monday, April 12, 2010


A prudent person perceives difficulties ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Prov. 22:3
Most of us think we are pretty savvy 21st century types. Wise. Is this so? My experience as a parish priest as well as an oil patch construction manager tells me that most of us move from crisis to crisis. Currently, on the political scene, we prefer to posture, pummel, and pontificate (for the cameras) rather than work together to solve or cut off real problems. My mom used to say, "Fiddling while Rome burned" a reference to Roman emperor Nero.
We avoid or put off looking at marriages ("It costs too much," we say, not realizing how much a failed marriage costs.) We seek happiness more than character as a life quest and are surprised when drugs or sex enters our family life unwelcomed or when we seemed surprised that drug wars (murders) happen on the borders of a country (us) that is awash in drugs of all sorts. We are amazed that anyone could bilk savvy people out of billions when Credit is King (no deferred gratification here!) and the worth of a person is measured in dollars and stuff.
"Simpleton" is a quaint bible word. "Stupid" is more like it. God tells us the truth. It is stupid not to plan ahead and to seek relief as often as possible. It is stupid to hold out all options until the last minute and bail out of the hardest ones and wonder why we are busy unto death. It is stupid not to know what our personal or family mission is. Satan has one for us if we default. It is stupid not to build character and, instead, aim for happiness.
God tells us the truth, building character inherently makes us happy even if circumstances don't always go our way. God tells us the truth when he says the way of the Cross (read deferred gratification) is the way of Life. God tells us the truth that when our hearts yearn for money, people, especially those close to us, suffer. Character trumps expedience. Expedience often leads us to be unhappy and unfulfilled even when circumstances do go our way.
God wants us happy. God sees we often are not. God tells us the way and then permanently opens the way to all who follow his Son. Character building (see Romans 5) does not disappoint.


In Australia, the number of crimes committed inside churches in 2008 was 1600.  In strip clubs, there were less than 300. On top of that, 85 people were assaulted in churches in 2008.  Only 66 assaults happened in the strip clubs.
This quotation, courtesy of, certainly gives one pause. Should we avoid church and attend strip clubs instead? Certainly, with the dwindling number of people actually worshiping and the growing number who find other things to do on Sunday, this number is even more astonishing.
Maybe the statistics do say something about church. We have a long way to go before becoming the community Paul envisioned in scripture, the Body of Christ. For sure, sinners are everywhere. In the pews and on the bar stool and around the pole. Sinlessness is not a community maker or breaker. Jesus made every single one of these people. They are all precious and are capable of loving God in the way Jesus did.  Jesus also redeemed every one of these people on the Cross and gave each the same opportunity for a new life via the Resurrection. The difference should be in what kind of community is forming us.
It is easy to say that the strip club offers an artificial community where the common bond is mostly nudity and alcohol. I am sure the are some very  positive stories as well. But the Church should be offering a compelling community where people lay down their lives for one another, bear each others burdens and make relating to God in prayer, scripture study and worship a priority. The bible tells us as do our Baptismal Vows that we take our commitment to each other seriously by patterning our lives around Christ. True community forms radically different (but not perfect) people. Are we missing real community in our churches, maybe spending more energy on making people happy (which the strip club might do better and which is not the Church's mission?)
I yearn for real community, biblical community. A community that makes an eternal difference. Just what is my (our) mission? In practice (not on paper, which is often ignored and not memorable, how different is it from that of the strip club?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I received an email from Jesus the other day. A little scary (although I am honored) and a little disconcerting. Disconcerting because Jesus misspelled a word and closed with "Good Luck!" I would have expected "Godspeed" or something like that. He was looking for 24 (a la Revelation) good men (sorry, ladies, this Jesus was not enlightened) to serve for a year. It was unclear that things would end before the year did or that the chosen would actually be killing time prior to the rapture.  He did tell me that this was an emergency meeting. Jesus also noted that I missed his millennial birthday and should have acted more like I thought he was coming in 2000 (or 2001 depending on your marking of the Millennium.) Oh, and Jesus lives in San Mateo, CA! I would have guessed South Carolina


Okay, this was bizarre. But it does beg the questions, "Is Jesus a nitpicker and how am I supposed to take both scripture and modernity (internet?)" 


If Easter tells us anything, God does have standards, we often do not live up to them and God is more interested in our return to him than our punishment. Otherwise, you and I would be a greasy spot on the floor right now, kinda like at the bottom of a McDonald's bag. God has high expectations but Jesus tells us that fastidiousness is a spiritual dead end because we see the works as an end in themselves and love God too little. Much of the theology on the internet is either maudlin or it gives the impression that, while God forgives us on the Cross, he still holds a certain resentment. Watch out! Are you one of them?! 


Here is what I do (What do you do?) I accept scripture. After all these years, I cannot make a rational system out of it and I do not think anyone can. I do believe that the Spirit of God will help me with what I do not understand but, in the end, I have to trust that God knows best and has my best interest at heart. I believe God loves me (an will forgive me when I inevitably fail in my goodness pursuit.) He has something for me to do but it does not rest in obscurity and it does rest in service to him in this world and in bliss with him in the next.