Monday, February 28, 2011


Steamotive folded with all my paychecks. I came to work after having just moved to Phoenix for a new job. My morning work routine was interrupted by an IRS tape across all the business doors. I was not surprised. My first two checks had bounced and bounced again when I sent them through again. I could not understand why anyone would offer me a job knowing the business was insolvent. I gave up a job to move in the 118 degree heat. The owner was a family acquaintance.


A number of angered employees (with much more tenure) asked me to join them in legally pursuing the owner. They may not forgive him but could at least attempt to get him for all he was worth. I have no idea how they faired.


I chose to move on. And to forgive. Forgiving means "you truly took something from me but I now cancel the debt." Forgiveness may or may not let others off the hook but it ALWAYS lets us off the hook. Life will not and cannot go on until we forgive. God is a God of forgiveness.


I meet too many people who are holding onto old "debts" (you stole my money, my reputation, my job, my virginity, my time, my child, my innocence.) They display anger and/or depression. They often self-medicate (instead of examining the source of their feelings and forgiving) by shopping, eating, drinking, and hyper busyness. They blame someone or something close by (spouse, job, and current circumstances.) None can take the place of forgiveness, which ultimately does give the relief sought.


Forgiving does not mean "it didn't hurt" or "it was okay" or "I can trust you again." It means I cancel your real debt to me.


Forgive today. Help others to forgive. Forgiving is to meet God face-to-face.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Quick. What comes to mind when you see C-H-U-R-C-H? Stain glass? Gothic cathedral? Modern building with multimedia? Guitar? Coffee hour? Sunday School? Too hard pews?


I see people. Church happens whenever the people of God get together. Mostly, church happens outside the building, off campus. Church happens where we are.


Console a friend. That's church. Teach the mysteries of trigonometry? That's church. Stay up all night with a two year old or a not-yet-sobered up friend? That's church. Work a soup kitchen. That's church. Pray with a sick person when you cannot find the words? That's church. Defend the powerless? That's church. Forgive someone who truly mistreated you? That's church.


Church is everywhere we, the baptized, are. The real question is, "How faithful are we as church?" Faithfulness depends on two things. Asking God to enter into our corporate endeavors and then letting God work. There is a temptation to go it alone and push results. When we do, the power is absent. Without God, we have very little lasting power. "Church" is the broker of unlimited power.


God is mad about you (not mad at you.) He has cast you as a catalyst for the renewal of a broken world. He has placed you within a community of like-minded catalysts. Go be the church. Be bold. Do-over's are God's business. Tell me how I can encourage, equip and deploy you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Honor You

There is no such thing as a dysfunctional organization,

because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets.

Jeff Lawrence


One of the saddest parts of my ministry is when marriages experience stress and one spouse seeks to divest herself or himself of the other, citing that it's the other's fault; they won't change. I even see these weeks after the wedding.


First, I know there are truly toxic relationships and have worked with them. They do not fit the quotation. Second, this happened to my wife and me. Physician heal thyself. Third, #1 and #2 taken into consideration, marital stress usually involves both-stress and blame.


The kernel of truth in Jeff's generalization is that, usually, both spouses have work to do. In fact, they worked to get where they are. Two people have become perfectly aligned to have the marriage they have. I have learned not to take sides. Or to judge.


If the statement is true, both spouses can align differently with a change of mind ("I helped us get where we are" is a good start.) Paul says that a transformation can come from a mind change, especially when God is invited in. One of the first things I suggest is that the spouses pray for each other (often met with resistence.)


If you are married, what is your mutual alignment? That is, are you pleased with the results? They can change. If you are out of marriage, realize you still can learn from your past relationship. If you know anyone who is married, pray for them. In today's culture, relationships are drawn in all directions, often caused by money issues. Know I root for your relationships. I root with God. If you know someone out of marriage, pray for them as well. I know God does not waste a hurt. There is resurrection. Things can change.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Recently, Seth Godin spoke of asymmetric gifts in his blog. This is the truest form of gift, one where there is no expectation of a return favor. It is strange that we have evolved to a place in society where the word "gift" often implies "there's a catch" or "I hope you will reciprocate". "Gift" often needs the word "Free" before it. It shouldn't.


My dad was the freest giver of gifts I knew. If someone came to the house and appreciated something, they would leave with it as a gift. He went to local aircraft factories and bought big drums of mixed hardware (nuts, screws, washers) and filled a coffee can (they had them then) to give to every person who visited or moved into town.


God gives us the gifts of love, grace, hope, forgiveness. God's gifts are asymmetrical. Give some asymmetrical gifts today. After all, you are God kid.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Was I fickle when I intended to do this?

Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath

I say both "Yes, yes" and "No, no"?  2 Corinthians 1:7



Paul writes to the church in Corinth that "worldly" ways are fickle. Corinth was a fickle society and this "bled" into church life. Fickle means likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution, or instability; not constant or loyal in affections.


If "worldly" is fickle, then one would assume, followers of Christ would be "other worldly:" constant, unwavering, and dependable. Imagine a God who did only what was convenient, novel or urgent.


Christian community is impossible without steadfastness (that's a God/Bible word.) Community thrives on dependability. It is not that Christians do not change their minds. Some times we need to. It is that Christians keep their word, often a great cost. And they are choosey (discerning) before giving it. Christian community should be an "excuse free zone."


Trust is the fruit of dependable people. This works anywhere, not just with other Christians. Life blooms where trust abounds and it is snuffed out when planted in fickleness.


Are you dependable? If so, you are an agent of God's love. If not, what changes are needed in you (God will help) that will bring steadfastness?

Monday, February 21, 2011


What would happen if we just stopped? Stopped saying "Yes" to everything for fear of missing out or offending? Stopped doing things that once gave us life but no longer serve that purpose? Stopped doing really important things because we know that no one will continue them? Stopped staying busy for fear we might have to face a demon from our past or present and deal with it?


What could happen is that you rediscover yourself and the beauty of flexibility and endeavors that are life-giving. You could heal from hurts that will not go away till you deal with them. You could return to human BEing instead of the alien human DOing.


God tells Elijah that he is often found in the sound of sheer silence (stillness.) Jesus found the value of "getting away." Imagine Jesus saying he was too busy. He didn't even heal or care for everyone in Israel.


As Lent approaches, I hope you will find a way to divest, unplug or withdraw. Give yourself, family, friends, God – more time: without being or needing a cruise director. Ask God to handle your part of the universe while you lay off for a bit.


Just so you know, I am considering a dawn to dusk fast for Lent. I want to be available. I am still praying.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Dear God, when I speak, let my words be the truth. Hold me accountable to the things I say. Amen.  Ruth Perkins Lee


These were the prayers of today's devotion from Ruth Perkins Lee on She had reflected on this past Sunday's Gospel where Jesus tells us to let our "Yes" and "No" stand for something.


I try to deliver on every promise I make. While I do not succeed every time, I do most times. You can count on me when I say I will do something.


Community unravels when people promise and don't deliver. We have heard all sorts of excuses to a point where getting an excuse is the norm. Both living in community and doing our part takes personal sacrifice. It is worth it. Jesus thinks so as well.


I sometimes think we have changed into an "I promise" (wink-wink, I don't mean it) world where we have no idea who means what and where a very few people wind up the recipients of all the collateral damage.


When you speak, do you do your part? Do you keep your word and follow through even if a better offer comes up? Do you ask others to be accountable? Our word is the glue that makes community the life force it can be.

Practice integrity. Say it and mean it. Don't let your sister or brother down.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I am reading A Year of Living Biblically by A J Jacobs. Basically, the author (who also read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica and wrote a book in that) tries living a life by following every rule in the Bible. Some rules are easy. Some make sense. Some are very hard. Some contradict each other. As you can imagine, living this out is tough. I love the book.


But, is living Biblically what we are called to do? I don't think so. It may bring us closer to God but there is still a leap left to take. I think we are to love God and life is the fruit of this. In fairness, Jacobs is shaped by his practice in a Godly way.


Don't get me wrong. I do think the Bible is inspired and it does point us toward God. But it is more than rules. We are not asked to worship the Bible. We are called to worship (love) God.


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. Deuteronomy 6:4-5


God is love. 1 John 4:16


One can have every piece of the Bible memorized and dissected and not have a relationship to God. Life flows from relating to God. So, when we say, "I'm a good person," we are really saying nothing about our love of God. We only are making a claim of self-sufficiency or worthiness. If we are not in love with God, live is diminished.


I love Christine. I don't know everything about her. She baffles me at times. We hang in with each other at other times. I get tough-tied. As far as I know, Christine has not published a Rule Book nor would she want me to substitute it for loving her. It's all about relationships (and not about being right.)


Bible mastery has the allure of seemingly putting us in control. No life-giving relationship is about control. Life comes in abandonment to a subject of love worth loving, whether it is Christine or God.


Are you willing to stop being a "good person," substituting being right for rules and, instead, abandon yourself to the out-of-control endeavor of loving God? It's worth it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


If you judge people, you have not time to love them. - Mother Teresa


The other day, I was in the doctor's waiting room. It was packed. I hated it. I looked around, trying to figure who really didn't need to be there. I went down the line, passing judgment on each one.


I did not judge if they were "God-worthy." No going to hell stuff. I judged if they were "Jim-waiting-room-worthy." You there have a funny smile that lasts a little too long. You there will not look at your wife when you talk to here. You there are spoiling that kid. And where in the world did you get the memo that THAT OUTFIT was appropriate for a doctor's visit? And so on.


I was pathetic. I was mad and I sent everyone away as a result. Off with their heads! I caught myself. I was ashamed. I began to pray for them instead.


Who needs your love today without your judgment?

Monday, February 14, 2011


Christine and I drove into Burlington, Vermont late in on Friday evening. Being young, we had made no reservations because we did not know where we would stop along the away. Just seemed like fun. There was a convention. Oh, and lots of snow. No room in the inn. We had to backtrack for an hour and wake up a guy (it was late) to get his last room.


In the morning, we took off, again with not particular destination. We decided to take the ferry across Lake Champlain to go to Lake Placid. It was a tiny, 4 car deal. As we waited, about 10th in line, we saw a young man with a garment bag asking people to roll down thier windows. No pedestrians were allowed on the ferry.


The first nine cars nodded, "No" to him. He got to us. Seems that he was getting married and his bride to be had this idyllic wedding planned in snow-dusted Lake Placid. He had flown into New York City, caught a plane to Burlington. After circling forever, his plane was finally cleared to land. Arriving late in a snow-covered, convention packed town, his rental car was "taken." He wanted to hitch a ride across the lake with someone. We agreed. And talked during our wait.


Upon getting to the other side, we decided to take him all the way to the wedding. After all, we were going where life led us. A year later, we would sell what we owned and pack everything in a 1971 Toyota and take off west, with no destination (and little money) in mind. A month later, we had traveled to the Pacific and back, winding up sleeping in the living room of a mutual friend (and three other guys) in Boulder, Colorado: our new home.


Maybe the Spirit did not lead us. Christine and I began a new life that we believe was the Spirit's doing. Where in the comfort of your routine is there space for the Spirit? There is an adventure in your life. God's adventure. Don't miss it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Borders book stores look like they will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy tomorrow or the day after. Book selling and reading are changing. Amazon seems to understand that and embraced change, having introduced electronic books with the Kindle. Ditto, Barnes and Noble. Both know there is a place for both physical books and ones made up of electrons.

I love to read. I love the feel of a book. I have always read, even when my eyesight was impaired years ago. Reading enriches life. I also own a Kindle and even read more, mainly due to being able to blow up the font.

I know people will lose jobs, stores will close and all of book-dom will wonder, "What next?"

Change is inevitable. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says this in so many words (or symbols.) Not all change is good. But change is coming. Always.

God is all wrapped up in change. God never changes (God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow) and can be counted on. Yet, God feels for us (which means God can be changed.) God is love. Love is inextricably bound to the one loved. We must change because we are mired in sin. And yet, we are being made perfect through change.

Do you embrace change? Resist it? Will you be passed by in the changes of this world? Are you open to the changes God is encouraging in you? Have you thought which changes are good? Are you prepared?

God does not have bankruptcy in our future. God, bless us through those changes we must endure or should endure and help us to resist those that rob us of life.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A New Creation

Amy Julia Becker writes in her Beliefnet blog about Inspiration and Transformation. It's good.


Inspiration is a momentary high. It provides a boost, a shot-in-the-arm or encouragement. Inspiration travels in the world of "feelings." We can be "inspired" to noble and ignoble things. Presumably, if you are reading this, you strive for the noble and, at times, fall prey to the ignoble. We all need inspiration. But, as Jesus points out on the Mount of Transfiguration, it is no place to dwell. It is the microwave of faith.


Transformation is a process of changing from the inside out. It is slower and more deliberate. It often goes unnoticed until we "look back." That is, only upon reflection, do we become aware that we are a different person than we once were. Transformation hangs out with the thoughts we embrace (as opposed to merely thoughts we think and are inspired by.) Paul claims we are transformed by the renewal of our minds (thoughts - Romans 12.) Transformation is more the crock pot of spiritual life. It cannot (and should not) be rushed.


I want to add two more to the list, Reflection and Perspiration.  Transformation does not occur without reflection upon things, especially upon moments of inspiration. Why does this move me? Where will this move me to? Was Jesus moved by the same thing? What itch does this inspiration scratch? Is it a good one? What's going on?


Transformation needs perspiration was well. We must act in our daily life upon the new insight we gain. Just thinking it yields no better results than just feeling it. Collecting thoughts does not transform. Transformation is a product of inspiration, reflection and perspiration we employ.


How is your transformation project coming? God is eager to help. A new creation awaits.

Monday, February 7, 2011




You may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads. St. Francis


Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
St. Teresa of Avila


What does the life you live say about God? I was really mad the other day. I took it out on anyone and everyone I had more than a casual contact with.


Later, I reflected. I am not sure why. Is this the best I have to offer? Is this the way Christ would interact with others, especially those who bore no ill?


I reflected more. What else do I do? Maybe unconsciously? I am not talking about stealing or murder. I am talking about overlooking someone's pain, turning a person who I don't understand into a caricature so I can blow them off, sticking to cushy, familiar tasks and avoiding the awkward, messy, one-of-a-kind interactions that might truly make a difference one day? Where does the world's need scream at me and I turn the other way/


What does the life you live say about God? I am going to attempt to improve his image.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." - W. Edwards Deming

"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." – Jesus in Mark 8:35 (NIV)

The day before we moved from Rifle, Colorado to Parker, Colorado it was 20 degrees below zero at night and 10 degrees in the day. Our moving van came over from the Eastern Slope (Denver.) Rifle was on the Western Slope. Usually the two slopes had very different weather. Denver was mild (39 degrees) that day.


The two young men who came over to move us came and loaded us and got a motel room for the night. I suggested to them to fill up with #1 diesel fuel and not #2 that night. #2 turned to jelly when it got that cold. I knew because I had spent 4 years managing the outdoor portion of a mine in northwestern Colorado. We had lots of heavy equipment that used diesel.


As luck (life) would have it, the moving van would not start the next day (jelled fuel.) The young drivers had never used anything but #2 diesel in their short moving van career. They did not change that night. My family and I drove over to Parker and waited 5 days before the weather got warm enough for the movers to get their truck started. Rather than moving in the same day as the move, we lived out of an empty house. Not sure what their boss said after we called for 5 days. Evidently, they sent another truck over to get our trailer.


Change is hard. Some change is not helpful or healthy. Some change is absolutely essential. Jesus invites such a change.


Jesus' call to us to follow him is a call to change: to change for the better. We resist, rationalize, avoid: whine. Our attitude never changes God's economy, an economy that says "die to live." I admit this is a whopper and makes no sense to me. But that does not change its truth. I must let go.


What needs to die in you in order for you to live? I'll pray for your change. Please pray for mine.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Today is cold, at least for Houston. It reminds me of my days on the drill rigs of the Four Corners area. Brrrrr. I would don silk sox, then cotton sox and then wool sox and place then in an insulated boot. If your feet got cold, it was all over. Everything was cold.


When I repeat my baptismal vows at a baptism, I am reminded of the interconnectedness of all of us. The baptismal candidate is placing her life not only in God's hands but also in the hands of a bunch of followers of Christ who are in various stages of faith. I tell baptismal candidates that one of the scandals of the Church is that we place our life in the hands of a bunch of unknown strangers.


As with my feet, in Church, one person has the power to lift up or to lay waste the rest of the Body. Maybe not for eternity, since that belongs to God. But for now. If one part of the Body gets cold, the whole Body can cool of no matter how many rituals, ministries or programs are present. Yet, the opposite is true. Just one can start a warming trend.


Consider your church. Are you, by heart, mind, soul and actions warming it up or cooling it off? We matter.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Biggest Lie

What is the biggest lie? You can have it all! Without even knowing it, we swallow this one whole. This illusion is inflated by advertising, polished on the playing fields, and bottom-lined in the board room. The roots of this lie are with Satan. The quest is driven by the inevitability of my death.


Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by claiming Jesus could have it all.  View passage here. Note, however, that God sends Jesus, and us, out to be tempted. There is something about becoming fully human that requires we temper our budding life in the fire of temptation, in the face of withstanding the lie.


The truth? Life is found within limits. Speed limits. Weight limits Cholesterol limits. Blood pressure limits. Spending limits. One spouse. 24 hours a day and no more. In fact, a finite person can only live a finite life, unless…unless we let Christ do it. By limiting the Lord of my life to Jesus (and not to me or Wall Street or Madison Avenue or the band director or my boss or my addictions or the coach,) I finally pass through to eternity. Life unbounded.


If I go for the whole enchilada on my own, I will be consumed. If I lay my life down at the feet of Christ, I pass through to eternity but on this side of death.

23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"

   He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.'

   "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'  

Luke 13:23-25 (NIV)

May I temper my life today. Die to live!