Monday, June 28, 2010


He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.

Saint Augustine


Have you surrendered today? Surrendered from running your own life? I almost always think I can do a better job than God because I'm so close to me. Foolish. God made me. Jesus makes it clear that those who want to run the "show" may do so. But do so at their own peril.


God never forces us to do anything. God encourages life in us. He authored our life and he wants to care for it. But he won't do it without us.


I often ask people who say they just cannot trust God (meaning they must make changes and don't want to.) I usually ask, "How are you doing (taking over God's job?")


Ask yourself today, "How am I doing?" "Am I running the show? " How's that going?" "What will I not let go of?" "What not?" "What am I afraid of?"  


If you are letting God run things, I suspect you are a little nervous but a whole lot better off. Good for you. God is good and loves you more than you know. You're safe.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cling Free

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 (NIV)


Jesus repeats this verse again in Matthew 16:25. It is at the heart of his life and his message. No one can follow Jesus and hold on to her life at the same time. And a "held" life is a lost one. Clinging to comfort feels good but Jesus tells us that it is literally a dead end. In abandoning ourselves to his Way and following him and his lead, we arrive at life.


Consider this from the Corporation for National and Community Service.


Americans spent 100 million more hours helping their communities last year

The number of people getting involved went up by 1.6 million to 63.4 million

Americans overall set aside 8.1 billion hours to lend a hand

A typical volunteer donating about 52 hours for the year


Examine your life. Is it "cling free" and following Christ?


(The) Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28 (NIV)


My Facebook, Twitter and email we a buzz about General Stanley McChrystal being relieved of duty as a result of his expression of views about the Administration to Rolling Stone magazine. Everyone seems to have an opinion.


While we are free, much due to people like General McChrystal, to express our views. People under authority, like service personal, are not allowed to criticize superiors. In other words, freedom has boundaries. In fact, freedom is not freedom without boundaries. Unlimited choices have given us little but slavery to time (wasted choosing) and money (buying everything.)


The Prayer Book has a prayer in Morning Prayer that states, "God…whose service is perfect freedom." Freedom without boundaries is chaos. I do what I want and who cares how if affects you. I have rights!


Listen to God.


Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
       but those who are righteous will go free. Proverbs 11:21 (NIV)

          The righteous are those who self-imposed boundaries on themselves


Jesus said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." Mark 5:34 (NIV)

          Faith (which is trusting God's boundaries) frees is, which heals us.


Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 (NIV)

Accepting that there is truth (that not everything is true, including our opinions) is a boundary followers freely choose and others reject


So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

          My way? Slavery. Following Jesus' Way? Freedom. Boundaries win.


But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6:22 (NIV)

          Life comes only out of placing boundaries on ourselves.

God's boundaries.


Ask yourself, "Am I free today?" If you are under God's authority, you are.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pardon Me!

However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the

king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.

2 Kings 5:18 (NIV)


This was in my daily Bible reading today. I have read it a million times but do not remember it. It seems profound.  First, let me set the context. Naaman, a Gentile, had just been healed by Elisha. Naaman then decides to follow the One True God as Elisha does. So far, pretty ordinary. Then, Naaman says the above quotation. In effect, he is saying that he begs forgiveness if, when in the presence of his master (a non follower,) Naaman, out of respect or duty, honors his master's faith. Elisha approves ("Go in peace.") Do manners/honor, both forms of Love, trump religious fussiness? Maybe.


Fast forward to today. In the World Cup, French manager Raymond Domenech, after loosing to South Africa, 2-1, refused to shake the hand of the opposing coach and, instead, wagged his finger at him. Manners run amok.


Could it be that some of the best forms of following the Master are old-fashioned manners? My mom taught me many and I still listen to her 24 years after her death. Say, "Thank you." Do not answer the phone if you are talking with others. Stand up when a lady enters the room (never stay behind your desk!) Be a good loser (for every winner there is at least one loser.) Give the best of what you have to others. Eat last and accept what's left. Be generous. Keep your word (without it, you become nothing.)


Lord, may I love today through my manners. Good ones, I pray.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them   Albert Einstein


After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:12 (NIV)


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)


I listened to two very loving and intelligent people argue their points. Great volley. No one broke serve. Back and forth. Liberal and conservative. Right and wrong. Good and bad. "We agree to disagree." The world remains the same – broken.


I know that this scene must be repeated over and over again each second of each day. I am sure this is not God's way, at least, not often. Not between Believers.


Many expect God to punch them in the gut in order to take action. Judging by the man on the Cross, God has more finesse. If we are to change entrenched ways, God must write it in the sky. Except, he whispers. I see renewal need for others but refuse to see it needed in me. I'm proud, if not loud.


Yet, God persists in loving me into transformation. He'll wait but time may run out. Routinely, he whispers.


Listen to your loved ones and adversaries today. Say little or nothing that has to do with opinion or facts supplied by others. Listen. God is whispering.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Fr. Joe+ gave me a transcript from National Public Radio's "Speaking of Faith."  It was a segment on Spirituality of Parenting Click here for the website and some great stories. The essay encourages parents to get involved in the faith of their children, even if it takes time and even if we, as parents, feel inadequate.


At the same time, I have read and heard (at a conference) that, more and more, the trend today is for kids to bring parents to church rather than parents bringing kids to church. Churches that want to reach others for the Gospel and to grow spiritually as well as numerically know that kids are often the ones to reach. Children naturally are spiritual and have many spiritual questions and quests.


Consider how much time we spend shopping, surfing (the internet or the Gulf,) at work, exercising, going to endless practices and meetings and ask ourselves this. "How much time to I personally devote to the spiritual life of a child in my life?" Personally. Not passing off to a Sunday school teacher for 45 minutes every other week. Personally.


If the spiritual time with a child rivals some of life's other diversions, you are bestowing God's blessing. If you must sacrifice some of life's other diversions in order to make time, a double blessing on you.


My dad told me when I was younger to enjoy my life and make it about me until I have children. After that, is should never be about me again. I believe he is right and I have tried to remember that each day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I am not being fed! I hear this phrase or something like it almost every month. Teaching is dull. Sermons are boring. Selection of offerings is paltry. Sometimes, these are the last words uttered as a member departs the church for another church. Mostly, these members are long time Christians thinking the problem is with the church rather than investigating their own spiritual life.


Tenured Christians are in charge of their own spiritual feeding. Each of us must take our place teaching, encouraging, learning, practicing, forgiving, praying and correcting. We are to continually renew our relationship with Christ. He has our best interest at stake. One of the best antidotes to our spiritual doldrums is to serve. Service is practical spirituality. True service requires sacrifice. Sacrifice challenges us and our assumptions. Challenges return us to Christ in order to deepen our walk.


New and non Christians do need our help in being fed. They do not know the ropes or even why the ropes may be important. So much out there from which to choose. What will help? One thing we know is that too much feeding only confuses. We are to guide new (or returning or non) Christians in love, keeping the diet simple and suitable for the individual. The feeding a full time mother of preschoolers needs is much less than the feeding of a retired executive. I usually start with their questions rather than my beliefs. That is where their growing edge is found.


Are you being fed? Do you need to serve? Is there someone close to you who needs your help in choosing a spiritual diet? Is it time for you to teach (the greatest way to be fed and learn?) You and your spiritual diet are precious to Christ and to me.


Somebody wrote that in Australia there are two main methods for keeping cattle on the ranch. One is to build a fence around the perimeter. The other is to dig a well in the center of the property. John Ortberg


Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14.) We are meant to draw people to us, whether we are the Church or an individual Follower. Too often Churches have sad stories or traditions that fence them in and others out. Ironically, the word for Church in the Bible (ekklesia) literally means "to call out." The Church comes to mean "the building" rather than a warm fire to gather around and over which life is seen more clearly. Followers, too, have past issues that not only fence them in but keep others out. They claim that they cannot get over it. The past defines them rather than the Light.


Are you a fire that draws or a fence that protects? If a fence, ask Christ to consume it with his healing power. Ask fellow Followers for help. Ignite your fire. If you find yourself a fire today, warm someone up who needs it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


"Assumptions are the termites of relationships." Henry Winkler


While Fonzie of TV's Happy Days might be a strange place to go for wisdom, I think he has a point. Being in the church business, I gain access to a lot of relationships. Since we are so busy with all the tasks we think are important, we tend to generate a lot of assumptions about people along the way. That is, we project onto others what is easy for us to believe and accept; forgoing the necessary ground work of time together that brings true knowledge of an other. We assume that others are wholly like us or wholly unlike us. Assumptions (including expectations) kill.


Only a true knowledge of an other yields an assumptionless love of who the other is. When I am accepted for who I am, I open up. I consider changes necessary to life. I am free. Assumptions create a burden to be someone else, created not by our Creator but by another who is created. Assumptions eat away at us because, deep down, we know we will never be able to live up to any other standard but the one we have in Christ.


When Jesus tells us to be perfect, he encourages us to be perfectly who God made us to be. Love does that. Love not only does not make assumptions, it embraces us as treasures, even if imperfect in our current reflection.


Who lies in our relationship orbit who is burdened by our assumptions? Pray we move from the coziness of assumptions to the boldness of acceptance that comes from truly knowing an other.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Know You

One of the things by which I am struck (this last phrase was for all you English majors who yearn to fix my grammar ;) each and every Workcamp (youth mission trip,) is the role of stereotypes. They are both enforced rigorously and busted routinely.


Teen life has very rigid stereotypes. Good = beautiful, buff, handsome, rich (or at the least, having all the right gadgets,) popular, athletic, possibly smart, extroverted, hip, having of transportation (especially if it was a "statement" vehicle and not mom's clunker.) Most of us remember enforcing or being crushed by these "good" stereotypes in school.


"Bottom feeders" were sometimes smart, dorky (unless "cute" dorky,) ugly (or, at least, not beautiful,) uncoordinated, last-to-get-cool-stuff-first-to-have-to-check-with-mom, curfewed, car-less, introverted, needy, social awkward.


Then, all of the sudden, the same people see those who are poor, of another color or religion, physically not beautiful, angry, not squeaky clean in body or property, marginally educated, frail, and in need as Kings and Queens. The teens get to know the real person. And I am so proud of them. So is God.


Today, are you looking on the outside or really getting to know the person who, at first, you find off-putting or not meeting your criteria of good?" Jesus always looked deeper. He loved the "bottom feeders" with all his heart. He died for everyone. Thank you, Youth of St. Andrew's! Bust those stereotypes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Thoughts from three prominent Protestant pastors. What do you think?

Craig Groeschel on "Christian Atheists":

I believe in God but I want to do whatever the heck I want to do. I want enough of God to keep me out of hell and enough of God to get me into heaven but I don't want so much of God that it makes me change my lifestyle because at its root I believe in God but I do not fear Him.


Rick Warren on Saddleback's future:

If you passively just want to sit around in the next 10 years and just waste your life on things that won't last, you probably want to find another church because you're not going to really feel comfortable here. Because if you're in this church, I'm coming after you to be mobilized.


Bill Hybels on Willow's discipleship mistake:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become 'self feeders.' We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Quoted from


Seth Godin, online marketing consultant, wrote in his blog the following.

It doesn't have to be a wise decision or a perfect one. Just make one.
In fact, make several. Make more decisions could be your three word mantra.
No decision is a decision as well, the decision not to decide. Not deciding is usually the wrong decision. If you are the go-to person, the one who can decide, you'll make more of a difference. It doesn't matter so much that you're right, it matters that you decided.

Of course it's risky and painful. That's why it's a rare and valuable skill.

How many of us go through life wanting to listen to God and do his will only to be stymied because we cannot get all the pieces to fit together? We wait until everything is perfect (never gets there, does it?) We assume that there is one and only one exact thing that God wants us to do and we better get it right. Faith becomes outguessing God and God give lousy clues (or, at least, not enough of them.)

What if God is saying "Do what you think is best in light of all you know about me?" "There are many paths to my will.""Don't expect me to make it perfectly clear. After all, this is about FAITH."

In other words, develop a working relationship (that's what prayer, acts of charity and sacrifice, Bible study and Christian mentors are for) with me and act out of that. Do you have a working relationship with God?