Thursday, June 23, 2011


 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
   but the prudent hold their tongues. Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)


Can any of us go a minute without either hearing or voicing an opinion? I watched on television today (but I could have picked any day) two people blowing opinions past one another without ever once listening to the other. Neither wanted to learn anything. Neither wanted the truth. Both wanted to win.


I admire people who can remain silent and just listen. They give me power. They do not have to "win." They respect the person and the relationship more than they need power or control.


James points out in his Letter that the tongue can really screw up things.


Practice silence today. Listen. Care for those you encounter through a welcome ear.


Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. James 1:26


Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5 (NIV)

Monday, June 20, 2011


The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
   but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)



Blackberries, iPhones, grocery lists and checkbooks are often out during worship. Maybe my preaching sucks. Maybe the music is too hard or pedestrian. Oh, and a few arms are crossed over the chest when sitting or singing. I've seen this phenomenon is other worship venues.


While open to interpretation, experience tells me that these actions signify a soul closed off to an encounter with God.  Maybe because we know God has change in store for us. Maybe we do not expect the encounter to be a loving one. I long ago realized that God can work through crappy preaching or worship or teaching but God will not violate a closed heart.


If Jesus tells the truth (John 10:10,) God has good in store for us but it involves change, sacrifice, and repentance (changing your mind and acting differently.) Only a fool would seek to sustain a mediocre life.


The word "foolish" in the verse above does not mean a clown or a dumb person. It means a hard-hearted person. A person who feels self-sufficient and, maybe, afraid of change. Even good change. Most of us would rather die in the familiarity of our routine than thrive in the life God offers.


Openness to the Lord's prompting to give up some of our old ways and abandon ourselves to try his serves as the entrance to the life we all seek when our feet hit the ground each morning.


How open are you? When was the last time you changed what you do because of God's prompting?


My drive-in ATM was down today. Used the drive through. The devise that transported my check was different. It had a two way camera. I guess the bank thought that this would make things more "personal."


Problem was, my lens was a wide angle. My head was the size of a radish while the arm I had out the window looked like it belonged to an elephant. Meanwhile the inside camera was no better. The angle was downwards much like the surveillance cameras in Vegas that look for card counters at the blackjack table. The teller had nice hair, however.


Perspective changes things. When Jesus tells us not to judge people, I think he is reminding us that no one had God's perspective. God's perspective is one of Creator and Lover. While I might aspire to such a lofty perspective, I am stuck here with the self-centered and clouded perspective. This is why we are commanded not to make an image (in today's world this is not a statue but our thoughts about God and our opinions about God) of God either.


Imagine the people you meet today as God sees them and what God had in mind when he created them. Aspire to be what he sees and created in you. Have a no radish head day.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On A Mission

I like to read mission statements. I like to read them for two reasons.


I like to see statements that really grasp the group's identity in a few words

I like to see if the group delivers on their mission (or it's just a bunch of words)


Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden) has this very succinct mission statement

"To nourish and delight everyone we serve."


Church mission statements (even my own church's) leave me cold. With the greatest mission for the greatest God, we come up with wordy, churchy, all-inclusive laundry lists or meaningless church words strung together. Mostly, these mission statements are about some church but rarely reflect the actual church that espouses it. (If yours is great, bless you. Send it to me.) By the way, Enron's mission statements (RIP) was,"Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence." Huh?


What if we all used Darden's?  What if that was our church's and our personal mission statement? I don't think Jesus would be offended, especially if we lived it out. Nourish could mean physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.


What would Christ say is your specific mission for him? How are you doing?


Left my office at church. Went to rinse my coffee cup out at a sink I do not normally use. Faucet had barely a dribble. Checked the pipes below to see if they were turned off. Nope. They are on. Okay, maybe the aerator is plugged. Yup. Got a pair of pliers and fixed it. Water! Went to the other bathroom. Same thing. Fixed that one as well.


This brings two questions to mind. Bear in mind that clergy are expected to be fix-it types because churches work on a break down maintenance schedule. We get a lot of time to think about these things.


  1. How many people noticed this before I did and ignored resolving it?
  2. What else, in need of attention, do we leave unaddressed?


There is a lot broken in this world. Christ focused on broken people. Whether or not he was handy, I don't know.


We who claim to follow Christ ought to be spending part of each day faithfully tending to broken people and working on systems that break people. By "faithfully," I mean, "where we are called, by God." We are called each to some things and not all things. (Pray for all of them, however.) To fret about all brokenness is Satan's preoccupation for us as much as to care about none of the world's brokenness is.


What if we made sure once each day we

o       Attended to the brokenness of one other person beyond family and friends?

o       Addressed one cultural system that breaks people?


Small steps work. Feeding an elderly person on a Meals-on-Wheels route, writing a letter of thanks, saying a kind word to a person who serves the public behind a cash register (or even acknowledging their humanity.)


You may be the only gospel a person ever reads. – St. Francis


Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words. – St. Francis


Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. – Jesus, Matthew 25:40



Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Artie Davis, in his blog today, spoke of how faith is made up of hearing and obeying God. True faith needs both.


How often do we want to Hear OR Obey? One or the other, After all, that makes it so much easier. We can go on autopilot.


Hearing, we can absorb God all day until we are spiritually ready to burp. That's our action for the day! No fear to overcome. No moving without complete certainty (and, thus, looking foolish.)


Or we can be a blur of activity, falling back on our own sense of rightness, expediently responding to the stimuli around us without discernment. We are on a mission (and doesn't that feel good?)


There is a kernel of good in both Quietism (hearing without obedience) and Activism (obeying without hearing) but there is power to raise the dead in Faith (hearing & obedience.) I am more the Activist and must guard myself against being faithless by spending time with God in Word and Prayer. Otherwise, my busyness is drained of all power.


How's your Power Meter today? Where is the fruit of your faith? Is God alive in your being and doing? If your meter registers "weak," could it be that your hearing has become uncoupled from your obeying? God wants to act through you in faith.


Sunday, June 12, 2011


This, I understand

This, I don’t

Yeah, I get this

This leaves me speechless

While I don't understand a lot, when I am troubled or baffled or hurting, this makes more sense and has more power

Than this

Where do you find your heart today? Where do you turn when you are out-of-control and have no answers? Does it have power to make your deadest moments alive?

Choose wisely.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Be Still

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God;

   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.  Psalm 46:10 (NIV)


In our age of electronic everything, is it possible to be still? Maybe not. But is it wise not to be still.


Psalm 46 reminds us that God is doing all sorts of stuff behind the scenes and he knows where we are headed (because he is there already.) The command to "be still" is one of wisdom.


When we are still, in the presence of God, we begin to see the bigger picture. My guess is that much of our mischief and troubles come from the short-sidedness that restlessness brings.


Be wise today. Sit. Put down the electronics. Shop less. Phone one less person. Leave that list of "To Do's" rest a while. Be still. Listen. Plug into the bigger picture. See how the story ends.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I am reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. There is an excellent summary of his ideas on TED talks.


Pink states, contrary to business (and church) practice, external motivators (rewards/punishments) only work in routine, rule-bound tasks. For creative (read "God" – see Genesis 1) tasks, ones which the church is called to, motive must be internal. He states, "If/Then often destroys creativity."


In my words, people free to explore their own gifts and abilities; can turn out some truly wonderful, if not miraculous stuff. Stuff, which rules and routine will never unearth. There is a possibility of sin. But there is a possibility of life as well. God is a forgiver. Risk taking him up on it.


Church is full of tradition. I would not want it any other way. But it also is full of traditionalism – slavish worship of old ways regardless of whether or not they breathe life any more. Traditionalism takes (too much) comfort on familiarity. Since we are sinners and society is broke (per God,) we can only take comfort in God.


Restating Daniel Pinks premise, "Could there be a mismatch of what church does and what 21st century reality and God demands?" I think there is. We are made in the image of God, which means we are naturally made to be creators. Heaven and Hell are external motivators that seldom birth the kind of creativity we need in culture today. The creativity that Christ can use to breathe life back into culture. His image for us is leaven, the life givers.


What would you do if you freely explored your gifts, dreams and talents? Where could God use that? How might lives be transformed by your implementation of your internal motivators. Worry less about punishment. See how much we have to benefit by you being you and exercising that on God's behalf.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

God: Defy Convention!

I am reading Scorecasting right now. It is a book about the hidden influence behind sports. It shows how tradition, in fact, flies in the face of the facts. It shows how the pressure to be right often causes us to make the safe but less-than-optimal choice because failure is worse than a success not reached.


For instance, in most cases, a coach is statistically better off going for a first down on most fourth downs rather than punting. But coaches have come to believe that it is better to miss success than risk failure in an unconventional (but statistically more profitable) choice. Same is true with benching a star basketball player when he gets 5 fouls (fearing he will foul out,) returning him to play only late in the game. Statistics show that teams score more with that player staying in, even if he subsequently fouls out.  Once again, coaches pay no heed to statistics (or success,) instead keeping with tradition and the possibility of looking foolish if it does not work. In both cases, conventional "failure" is avoided at the expense of winning more often.


I must admit, Jesus employed the same kind of "whoppers." Give up your life and you get it. Lead through serving. Love no matter what. First is last and last is first. Forgive. Seek God and everything else will take care of itself. Take time off. The "wise" of this age are foolish.


How often, for fear of bucking conventional culture or looking foolish, do we thumb our nose at God and do what pleases the crowd? And are less well off?


God's vote is for you to thrive. Play to an audience of one today: God. And live. Encourage fellow Followers to join you in bucking the crowd. To worship each Sunday, to take time to pray and read scripture, to forgive, to serve, to give generously. To the world, these seem like stupid moves but you will not fail.


I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b




Raising the Dead

I plan on taking my granddaughter to New York City to show her places I hung out as a child. Admittedly, many are gone. One that is gone is the Horn and Hardart Automat.


An automat was the 50's version of McDonald's. Food served in little windows where you put in your money and opened the door to get what you wanted. No throw away containers. Porcelain and steel dinnerware. I doubt the food was good but the conveyance was a marvel to a gadget-obsessed kid. Food houses! I loved loading up on a bunch of nickels and buying (usually for 25 cents) a sandwich or dessert. Ice pudding was my favorite.


Memories are powerful. They can raise the dead as well as keep us dead. They can launch us into our future or keep us living the same dreadful day over and over.


I meet far more people who need memories healed than bodies healed. Americans tend to pooh pooh bad memories that keep us from being fully human and fully alive even as we are awash in nostalgia (a false, inflated memory.)


Listen to the people in your life today who are trapped in emotional pain. You cannot fix it but Christ can heal it. Pray for them daily. If they are open, pray with them. The words don't matter, Jesus understands. Oh, and listen to stories of joy from the past. They are a gift from God to restore the soul. They heal even in the telling.


2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
   he gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
   and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars
   and calls them each by name.                          Psalm 147:2-4

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


What did you do today that will be remembered in years to come? Did you do anything memorable? I am not sure I did. I had one done to me, however. One big old "WOW!"

It punctuated my day and reconfigured the entire day's trajectory.


Here's what I now am wondering. Why can't we, as Christ followers, add, even in a small way, to the sum total of at least one person's day – Everyday? What if we doled out 365 "WOW's" a year? Jesus left each life he touched better off for the encounter (unless they resisted.) Can't I set a goal of just one such encounter a day?


If I start each day with the thought, "whose day will I make and how might I do it" on my mind, not only will I be a faithful servant and good steward of my gifts. I will set my face towards Christ as well. Not a bad direction.


Make a memory for someone today.


On my bed I remember you; 

I think of you through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:6

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;  

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:11           


The LORD remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless his people Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron,
Psalm 115:12