Monday, January 31, 2011

The Gospel of Matthew if he tweeted a chapter a day

1-Jesus is Messiah-Paternal genealogy back to Abraham- Mary pregnant- Angel visits Joseph. "It's all good, name him Immanuel."


2-Herod-no competitors! Magi w/gifts-Tell family-flee! All skip town. Herod mad. Kills boys-Herod dies-J Family returns


3-John Baptist-repent! Granola lifestyle.Quizzed by relig. dudes-John makes em mad-Change ways! Jesus baptzd-God pleazd

4-Jesus tested by devil to misuse gifts. Jesus good. Devil gives up. Jesus preachz. Fulfils prophcy. Calls followers. Heals sick

5-SermonOnMount. It's about followin, not talkin. B salt & light 2 world! Law still valid but view it through eyes of luv.

6-RU a spiritual hypocrit?-help needy-short prayrs best-Lord's Pryr a "howto"-You pik:serve God or your stuff-worry less-seek Kingdm

7-Judging othrs bakfires-ask God-skip ez route-not evry1 who speaks 4 God does-tru followers do as God asks-build life on solid grnd

8-Outcasts clean-Roman has mor faith thn Chosen-following J costly, not ez-Disciples faith puny-demons leave man, sent 2 pigs

9-J forgivs man-relig dudes mad-J calls sinners, J sez 2 all: get yur mind on straight-trust in J heals-few ans call 2 follw

10-J sends The 12-Go 2 Jews only-travel lite-say God's Realm near-offer peace but will be hard on u-don't fear-u r me- hang on:reward!

11-J fails relig expectations-J sez:look at fruit not form!-Baptizer prepares-change ways-Jsus: woe 2 hard harted-C me,see Father

12-J Lrd of God's time-J c's self as Isaiahlike Servnt-relig folk say J the devil-J sez judge fruit of actions not looks

13-Kingdom stories-God's Realm worth all-appeals to seekers-baffles others-a little K yields bumper crop-hold off judging crop

14-John loses hed | compassion heals | 5k fed w/ resources @ hand | Jsus prays | Discples afraid | Jsus encourages trust

15-Godz will trumps religus fussynss | Jesus' way ofends religus leadrs | faith mor import thn religus pedigree | 4k fed

16-Relig dudes need sign-R U 4 real Jsus?-relig foofoo no substitute for leaning on God-Peter's faith both a rock&shaky

17-Jsus shows BFF's tru self-BFF get weak kneed-Peter wants 2 build theme park-Jsus reminds:not memorials but risk heals

18-Greatest r servants | clear away everything that hinders service | work out differences faithfully, NOW | 4give-no limit!

19-Status Quo'ers rationliz a "pass" 4 sins-Childlik trust opns heavn-Follow X bettr thn dogooderism-Listn up! Last 1st

20-God not fair, prefers 2 reach all | Disciplshp no picnic | Discipls  dense, fit X in2 their expectatons | dn-and-outers get it

21-J hailed fave son-angry w/priorties of "religus"-Real faith heals-authorties burn-God's kids do as asked-religus mad

22-God's favor:low membrshp threshold/hi disciplshp expectations - dont blow it!- Relig dudes lay trap-It's all abt luv

23-Relig busybodies R showboatrs-No, servants r 1st-Dont B caretakr of religion, you'll lose out & hurt others-God Primo

24-Discipls:we R confusd, what's up?-Jess: bad news B4 gd-Will get worse-EZ (faithlss) answrs will B offered- Hang w/Me

25-#Life God's Way is this: It's there for the prepared, Use it or lose it, That person in front of you is #Christ

26-J prepard 4 death-betrayd-J sez gd bye ovr a sacred meal: Consume me & world not consume U-Jesus prays-arrested-Peter denies

27-Judas shuns blood $, kills self-Pilate duz wats expedient 2 save hide-Xify him!-J Xifed-Outsidr gets it-body entombd

28-J Alive:dont b afraid-men vanish/women presnt-resurrectd J tels followrs: dont wallow in moment-Go!-Make mor-I M /u

Sunday, January 30, 2011



1      Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *

    who may abide upon your holy hill?


2      Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *

    who speaks the truth from his heart.


3      There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend; *

    he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.


4      In his sight the wicked is rejected, *

    but he honors those who fear the Lord.


5      He has sworn to do no wrong *

    and does not take back his word.


6      He does not give his money in hope of gain, *

    nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.


7      Whoever does these things *

    shall never be overthrown.


Psalm 15 The Book of Common Prayer



I like this psalm, especially two things about it. First, I know the answer to the questions posed in verse 1 (I like being a show-off ;) Second, verse 5 stings. I'll start with verse 5.


The psalmist is saying in verse 5 that a wholesome, God-fearing person keeps her word. My dad taught me to keep my word, no matter what the consequences. What he meant by this was that, even though a better option will come up or even though keeping the promise you may get tired, without your word, you are nothing. Not quite God's words but I would bet God leans in that direction. In other words, once I break my promise, how can anyone believe the next one? Trust is shattered or pretended. Oath-breaking is a relationship stressor if not breaker. Trust is as necessary to live as air.


Now, verse one. Who can rate God's favor? Well just by promise–keeping standards, no one! Everybody loses. Here is where Christ and Love come in. Christ covered our slights to God (if we slight another, we slight God, by the way.)


I am covered for my oath breaking. As a sign of my gratitude, I begin to keep my oaths. If I break them God forgives me, but I begin to move far from God. Sure, God is anywhere I am but I no longer perceive his presence due to the stubbornness of me.


May I make well thought-out promises today and may I keep them. If I say I will, big or small, may I follow through. Just because I love God.


I remember today. I buried my mother at the exact time the space shuttle Challenger exploded. It was my first burial as a priest. As I returned to the office, the church staff was turning on the television, having been called by numerous parishioners.


Some days, there is more pain that one can bear. Some days, burying a too-young mom and watching the death of men and woman who were devoted to their work and died while doing that work, make little sense.


I have God for the days that hurt and make little sense. I wonder how others get through without God. Now God does not take away all the hurt. That would make the relationships with others superficial. And God does not give a grand explanation for how this pain fits in the bigger scheme of things. Mostly, God sits (does God "sit?") there, sharing my pain and assuring me that he has a plan (which he revises minute by minute as we create new hurdles) and it ends well.


I can stress and feel hopeless. I would not be human if I didn't do a bit of that. But, with God, I do not have that overwhelm me. I tried trusting in myself to figure things out. It was a grand failure. I am too puny.


I have to put my trust somewhere. God seems to make a tangible difference, even when God is "present" to my pain but not "fixing" it.


I thank God that he has chosen me to be his child. Like a child, I do not understand the big things and they scare me some. With God, I am okay with that. God's presence is robust and comforting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Right or Expedient?

In the Gospels, Caiaphas and Pilate follow the expedient course. That is, they focus on the path to immediate benefit or the path of least resistance or both. What will produce the best "bottom line" for now?


Jesus talks about the freedom of the truth and the actions of the righteous, both of which have their roots in God. I cannot produce either but I can live into both.


In many, if not most, cases, "expedient" leads us away from God and "right" leads us towards God. I do not mean "right" as in "I am right!" I mean "right" as in the path that leads towards God. The narrow door.


We live a double standard here. As I listen to our political discourse (which can happen in Washington or Houston,) we demand that people tickle our ears with immediate benefits while demanding that they be of no cost to us.


o       Reduce big government but keep me safe from everything


o       Cut taxes but do not mess with my entitlements


o       Make health care affordable and wide-spread but let me choose who, how, when and what.


o       Promise better things that cost me nothing


You can come up with your own. Christ made short-term decisions based on a long-haul vision. This produces a much different outcome from creating long-term consequences from short-term expediencies.


Today, may I shun the expedient and yearn for what is right. May I struggle with a myriad of polar opposites by asking God for direction. May I be willing to pay the short-term cost for the long term prize. May I seek truth and embrace righteousness. May I see how my life choices affect others.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reaction or Revelation?

Each day, I attempt to get my agenda to conform to God's. This means connection with God in a way that God can reveal what is or isn't his will. Now, I do not get bolts of lightning or clouds that part to reveal secret hidden messages. Mostly, I get blessed ordinariness. I try to launch each day with a mix scripture immersion, prayer infusion, friend guidance, and repetitive presence. What I try not to do is simply react all day. Satan loves me to react, shoot from the hip, and stay busy with tasks that do not further the Kingdom.


Scripture Immersion – Rather than "proof texting" (which is often an attempt to control a situation I am reacting to,) I immerse myself and each day in truths which need to be revealed because I would not have thought of them myself. The scripture may have no direct application for the moment. I visit the Word, "just because."


Prayer Infusion – I shut up (okay, as best as I can) and listen. God has heard my laundry list of "to do's" I have given him all day long. I may get a hint, inkling, a nudge or nothing at all. God may be working "behind the scenes." I figure he knows best.


Friend Guidance – I listen to my soul friends and even strangers. What is the text under what is being said? Where do they direct me? A detour may be in order.


Repetitive Presence – I hang in there and do this without really knowing the mechanics of how God pulls off influencing me or communicating with me. The trajectory of my life may change imperceptibly to me but may, in fact, raise the dead (me or others.)


A foundation is laid upon which to build a day or a life. Keep building. No need to spend the day reacting. I have a home base from which I can live empowered.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


What do the details of your life say about God? They never say nothing. How do you spend your time and money (stewardship?) Would your checkbook and date book lead people to believe you embrace a loving and generous God who takes time to rest and believes the best things in life are not things but relationships?


Do you know the NFL standings, who was nominated for an Oscar, what the Kardashians are up to as well as the lyrics to just about every popular song but know next-to-no scripture: God's Word?


Have you driven a child to succeed at (and to) every sport or activity AND nurtured them to spend time with God each day and practice their faith in sacrificial ways to the extent they practice piano or the curve ball? Are you and your family prepared for eternity as well as the weekend get-away?


Have you retired from work and from God? Been there, done that? Abraham didn't get started (and start over) till he was pushing 100. The people of God observe Sabbath but never retire from ministry.


God does not ask us to give up life. Rather, God asks that our life point towards Him. That our life reflects his values so others may know Him and seek life in Him.


Does the manner in which you live elicit from you and others joy and hope? That's what God had planned.

Monday, January 24, 2011

John T.

Last night, Christine and I went out to dinner after visiting my dad in the hospital. About the time our main course arrived, a young man with a hooded sweatshirt and the perfunctory ear buds came into the dining area and went to the diners across from us. I assumed he was asking for money. They gave him a vehement, "No."


He came to our table and asked for money. I asked if he was hungry. He said yes. I told him to sit down and we would by him dinner; whatever he wished. I said he only need enough for McDonald's. I insisted. He sat.


I asked him his name. It was JohnT…. I told him mine and Christine introduced herself. I asked what his story was. He was 19 and a Katrina evacuee. He did not finish high school but was 2 months into a 6 month GED program. He had been looking for work but no luck. He had been in jail. Christine asked if he was homeless. He said, "No, not yet." He lived with 3 other men and most of them had little or no work. He was estranged from his family who were in another state.


We discussed the difficulty of employment and had a few suggestions. He had recently joined a church (one I knew of) and hoped life would take a turn for the better. I knew it would be very hard but encouraged him.


As we left, I paid for his meal and gave him a twenty and stretched out my hand for a handshake. He said, "I could use a hug." I did.


I prayed for John today. He and his plight weighed heavily on me.


Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Church is a Verb

I got a very pretty Christmas card this past year depicting a cozy little snow-covered Gothic church in the woods. It was inviting even if you were not Christian.


There is a notion (my grandmother's favorite word) that church is about refuge. That church is a place to "get away" from the bad, old world or, at least, a world that has tired us out. I would not want to lose that sense of refuge.


Too often, however, it stops there. Church is to make me comfortable. I want to stay safe. Comfort originally meant to strengthen or fortify. That is how it is used in scripture (Isaiah 40:1)


Jesus' last words (Matthew 28:19) include, "Go."  We are comforted in order to carry out our unique mission as a Church and as individuals.


How (Where?) are you going for Christ today? How will you make Church a verb?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


On most days, I want to do what God wants. I have been around the block enough times to know that I will get no lightening bolt or handwriting on the wall (or, at least, not yet.) For that matter, few if any, decisions have no downside or no alternative. No slick formulas.


I think we get paralyzed when we wait for all things to point directly at one and only one course of action. Here is what I have learned. What about you?


  1. Without daily time with God in his Revealed Word (the Bible) and His Intimate Word (Prayer,) I will wander off into oblivion.
  2. Without weekly time in God's Incarnate Word (the local church,) I will put "oblivion" in my rearview mirror.
  3. God gives the gift of Faith to fill in the gaps between "Hmmm, I wonder" and "Do it!" There will ALWAYS be gaps, so I will always need Faith (Hence #1 and #2)
  4. There is more than one answer to "What should I do?" God points me to Life and Life has many paths. God, in effect, says, "That way is good and so is this one. You choose."
  5. God forgives me when the fruit of my actions point to the reality that I leaped without Him in the mix.
  6. People who peddle formulas of always know what God specifically wants scare me.


Get your life in sync (harmony) with what God is doing and the specifics will take care of themselves.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011




Sometimes, God bothers me. Just when I think I have "it" figured out, God throws a scriptural curve. I am rethinking what God thinks about the folks Christians seem to like to put on the "outside" of the tent (as it were.) What do you think? I hope you are bothered, too. My mind and heart are in flux. I think God is bigger than anything I can think or feel about God. In the end, I have to lean of God and not my own wits (or the wits of others.) No easy task but I'm game.


You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (I suspect God cares about his stuff, including people) Revelation 4:11


Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (I know Jesus is talking to the disciples but what's "many rooms" about?) John 14:1-4


You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Evidently, I have much work to so before I brand others) Matthew 7:5


I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (What? Another "pen?" Where? Who?) John 10:16


Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Hey, that could include a lot of people) Acts 10:34-35

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


A griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. King of the land and king of the air. Incredible combination. Unstoppable. And, it does not exist.


I find myself a Christian griffin sometimes. All the right answers and a heart of gold. Incredible combination. Unstoppable. God must smile. Oh, and it does not exist. My Christian life is a legendary creature. (Sigh.)

So what? Here's what. I need to move out from being the center of the universe and proud of myself and humble myself before God. When Christ is at my center, the Law is honored and Love is honored. They are the FRUIT of a grounded life.


My I stop trying to make an impression on God and others and, instead, sit at the feet of my Lord.


 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!
       Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)


 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."  Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)


Saturday, January 15, 2011


I had the privilege to minister with two people who had the same debilitating injury at the same time. I notice that they approached their recovery differently. Both prayed. But they went opposite ways after that.


One followed every painful, if not scary, step of rehabilitation. The other avoided or "forgot" rehab. The first weathered near term pain to regain full mobility in short order. The second experienced the long term pain of being less-than-mobile only to have to start all over again with rehab in earnest.


We talk "safety" a lot. If not to the point of bubble-wrapping everything and everyone. Faith is the confidence that "there's more!" God is just on the other side of the Cross. While being offensive or harmful is not the vocation of a follower of Christ, I think being scary is. That is, scary as in not rushing to cocoon oneself or others in near term safety if not inertia.


God is scary. He asks a lot and, most days, I feel I am not up to the trip. Is my trust enough to overcome my fears? If not, I remain unwhole. Our churches should be safe havens AND risk encouragers. We should comfort in the sense of caring as well as comfort as in the case of fortifying our neighbors to face their fears (with God.)


How safe will you be today? There's more!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


When the solution is simple, God is answering Albert Einstein


When you pray, do you assume like I do that the answer from God will be (or needs to be) a big, complex, hard to do answer that causes our spirit and minds to break into a sweat?


Elijah heard that God's response can be in a whisper or, as one translation puts it, "in the sound of sheer silence." I have found that God can just as easily respond to me in a hunch, a friend's random comment, a situation I find myself in, the dog, a sunset and more. God is the God of the entire Universe. God uses everything to communicate with us. I never hear words, but some do. I get "pictures" but most I have talked to have never had that experience. I have yet to know of anyone who got the proverbial lightning bolt (but admit it, you really do yearn for something that clear that it bowls you over.)


Some words from God come right out of my daily scripture reading. Some come over a long period of time and build to a crescendo. But, while they are building, I could have sore nothing was going on.


Sometimes, I think God's word is, "I don't know, try what you think is best and follow the fruit." Other times, I think God wants me to know him so well that I know what God is thinking, just as in the case of a close friend who need not utter a word.


God is speaking to you and me. Let's not overwork it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


What happened in Tucson was horrific even in a world with seemingly continual traffic in the horrific. The natural tendency is call for heroes and villains and to find a simple, pat answer to "Why?" Then move on. Business as usual. Heroes are pretty easy to spot. Thank God for heroes. One villain is not hard to find but we always search for more (usually based on our prejudices.) "Why?" defies simple answer even though we will accept (or have accepted) one.


Here is another viewpoint. "What 'Aha!' moment bubbles up from the horrific? We are not talking "the cause" or the "simple solution." "Aha's!" are brief glimpses into what very well could be the Truth. A Truth we do not see normally because we are so busy with the things of pressing importance (or so we think.) "Aha's!" make business a usual impossible.


I have had an "Aha!" developing over the past few days. It is this. I will pray to see if it is the Truth. We are just too partisan for our own good and we need to choose another way. I have frequently commented on the vitriolic state of (un)civil discourse, where everyone's loyalty, intelligence, patriotism, and motives are determined by the loudest voice.


Roger Ailes, who heads the Fox News Channel, has told his traditionally outspoken hosts to "shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually." He adds, "Both sides are wrong, but they both do it."


Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said, "[Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences." "The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information."


Rush Limbaugh's opinion was the sheriff was a "fool."


Blame does not matter. Name-calling is for elementary playgrounds. What does matter is the fact that we no longer engage one another civilly and respectfully regardless of what others think or how wrong we think they are.


Listen more than talk. There are no people on the face of this earth who Jesus didn't make, who Jesus didn't forgive by dying for, and who isn't a sinner. Help change the conversation from "Let me tell you in no uncertain terms what's wrong with you and what you think and the simple solution you miss," to "What do we share in common values?" I believe we share some common values (and they may take time to uncover) and they are the basis for respectful dialog and, even, solutions.


Celebrant   Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People       I will, with God's help.


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.


Two promises from the Episcopal Baptismal Vows.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Burned out? Run out of gas? If so, don't you want to find someone (something) to blame? I know I like nothing better than to find the source of my problems outside myself. Yet, I know this is a lie. Here is the truth.


I get burned out because I am engaging in one or more of the following


I am operating outside my passion zone. God made us passionate about some things and not so much about others. I will "go to the Cross" willingly if I have a passion. I will just resign myself (and complain a lot) if guilt or pressure or expectations are my reason for doing what I do. Sometimes, passions change. Things I was passionate about in my 30's don't move me in my 60's. It is okay to put a "passion" to rest.


I am not answering a call from God.  All of us have a calling, both in church and secularly. God fuels calls. We are here for a reason (probably for many of them.) Answering a call fulfills our very being. A call completes us. A job, empties. Calls are impossible without God's help. Too often, we stop relying on God for help.


I cannot say "No." The Messiah has come and he ain't you (or me.) Some things, as good as they are, are not ours to do. Satan loves nothing more than to sideline a follower of Jesus by encouraging her/him to "do it all." God's not puny but we are. He has what we cannot get to covered.


Consider you passion and your call today. I hope you have both and both breathe life into you.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I am not sure if the world is more frustrating or that I am more sensitive (grouchy?) but I find I get angry more often. Life seems less civil and, at times, less caring. Opinions seem uniformed and every opinion gets verbalized.


The Bible tells me to be angry but not to sin. Jesus says that my anger can be tantamount to murder if directed at someone. Yet, Jesus seemed pretty pissed off when he encountered the moneychangers in the Temple. More than once, Jesus and Paul seem a bit frustrated with followers. God gets pretty testy about our treatment of outcasts. So, what do I do with my anger? After all, it is an honest feeling. (Isn't it?)


Some things come to mind. First, I think I am meant to be angry at the things that make God angry. Things like overlooking the plight of those in need. Second, I cannot let my anger become a lifestyle. This means that anger is my god. If God is love, anger is not a primary faith expression. If there is angry always brewing under the surface, I need to look at its source. It is probably not a healthy one. Lastly, I need to let my anger find constructive means of expression. This usually means that I need to think about it before speaking. James says that the tongue ignites all sorts of "forest fires." The tongue needs to be curbed.


I am going to examine the roots of my anger, try to be slow to express it and in directing it at a person, and focus on the things (situations) that make God mad. No small task but one that may make the Kingdom a little closer. Pray for me. Join me.


Anger is the feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind. Evan Esar

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Even in an unstylish brown suit, he was a god. Not God, mind you, but in my 12 year old mind, a god. His name was Mr. Hagstrom. He was a lawyer. He stood behind what seemed like a two story high eagle and proclaimed the Word of God. You see, at Christ Church, our podium for reading the lessons was fashioned with an eagle. If you were in the front row, you looked up just like in the movies when you had to sit in the front row. His voice was deep and rich and he spoke God's Word as if it were God speaking. To me, he was larger than life.


That is, until one day when I saw him "out of uniform." He was in slacks and an open shirt in the church basement during our annual bazaar. He ran the "game if skill" for the kids. He may have worn an embarrassingly stupid looking hat. The game was not important. What was important was the Texaco Fire Chief fire engine that went to the very occasional winner. Mr. Hagstrom was appealing to my worldliness. I wanted that truck (never got it, however.) Mr. Hagstrom was warm, approachable and, well, fun. He relished his role as church carnie. Mr. Hagstrom was both a man of god and a man of the people.


I learned as I grew that God is both BIG and DENSE and SCARY and INTIMIDATING as well as LIFE SIZE and CLOSE and WARM and APPROACHABLE. All too often, we categorize both people and God in one extreme or the other. It is our loss. Labels make filing easier but make relationships harder. God is a God of relationships.


Look for both faces of God in your travels today. Life's richness collapses when the mysteries in our life give way our need for labels and order. Relationships are messy but they are the air we breathe as well.

Identity and Purpose

My mom and dad bought a subscription for me to a reissue of a Civil War era newspaper when I was a teen. This was at the time of the 100th anniversary of the War. At first, I read the accounts of the era. After a few months, I stopped reading. I didn't tell my parents. Not because I afraid they would be mad because of being out a fair amount of money (they could have canceled the subscription.) No, because I liked getting something in the mail. It made me feel important.


As a teen, I fought for anything that would give me a shred of identity or purpose, even if it was as flimsy as a newspaper subscription. In other words, I got my identity and purpose from things OUTSIDE me. My world defined both me and how I felt about me. All of my energy was taken up in insuring the world around me propped me up.


While I like to think I have matured over the years and find my identity and purpose from within; some days, I long for some good old EXTERNAL validation. Some days, that comes. Most days, it does not.


Two thoughts. First, have you genuinely encouraged those around you? Second, have you asked God to expose to you your identity and purpose. You are no accident. You are here entirely because God thought you were just what was needed.


"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)


God saw all that he had made, and it was very good Genesis 1:31a (NIV)


For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Until We Are Parted by Death

I had not seen Kate in over a decade. I officiated at her wedding over 15 years earlier. She is divorced. "Didn't work out…Different ways…Fell out of love…." I could have written the conversation before it started. It mostly follows the same screenplay. It made me sad.


I know that I am not responsible for the commitment others make or the revocation of that commitment. But it bums me out to see so many fail. I try hard to avoid judgment. I really do not know what goes on between the spouses I marry. Yet, I invested a lot of time and energy in order to give the marriage a great trajectory. Why so many "burnouts?" I am willing to bet that no two people marry with the hope of divorcing. I fear we live in a world that espouses "family values" while, at the same time, undermines marital relationships through elevating all other pursuits as needing attention right now.


The Church requires I meet with couples before the marriage in order to connect them with values and a power that transcends affection for the days affect wanes (which it will.) All say the church and God will be at the center of their relationship. I sense that they put up with me in order to get married. Soon after the wedding, I cease to see one or both of them. Often, I hear of trouble. I call. They need to work it out outside the church, they say. Professional help, they claim, is too expensive. The kids will be all right.


Marriage is meant to reflect the magnetic attraction, the no-matter-what love, Christ has for his Church, his Bride. Christine and I have discovered that marriage breaks when "I need" trumps "How may I serve you." When "You owe me" outstrips "I forgive you."


If you are married, give it the attention it needs. Work it out with the Church as helper. Pray together. If your marriage is in trouble, get help no matter what. If you are not married, support a marriage close to you. Pray for the marriages, regardless of how they look to you, that intersect your life. Give a couple the gift of taking care of their kids and get them out on their own. Christine and I invested thousands of dollars in our marriage through having a sitter on a weekly retainer (even if we could not use the sitter) and using the sitter at least three out of four Fridays. We spend thousand of dollars and hours on a perfect wedding day but it is the life-long marriage that is meant to be God's gift.