Thursday, May 29, 2008


I am always amazed by the fact that what we crave most remains out of our reach because we are in the way. The craving that all human beings long to have satisfied is the need for community. I long to have someone know me beyond the roles in my life. I long to have someone know me warts, wounds and all. Yet I often put up barriers to that happening. Still the craving rages.

In this mystical thing called the church, the intention is that we would be a community unlike any other community on the face of the planet. The good news is, we deliver. The bad news, the product we deliver is often far a field from the design of Christ. Unfortunately there is often more authentic community in the local bar or pub.

So how do we recapture the first love of community? Repentance. We must come before the throne of God, lay our lives bare.

I come to God and you, Broken, and in need of a Savior. Anybody else?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tis The Season

I took a few days away off from blogging after finishing the book. Now I am in Syracuse for the Methodist Church Annual Conference. This is always a fascinating time each year. Clergy and lay people from all over the state come together for a few days to be about the business of the church. What exactly does that mean? Usually it means people debating points, lines of difference being drawn, and in the end much proof it is easy to miss the point of this thing called the body of Christ. Often my response to Annual Conference is one of disappointment and disillusionment. It remains to be seen what will come of this year.

This all leads me to the ponder point for today. Why are we, the church, so comfortable with status quo. Now there are plenty of standard answers about politics, power and control. Beyond that there is something far more insidious, fear. For some the fear is of stepping out, for others the fear is breaking molds. The reality is, unless we get past the fear issue, the church is not going to pull out of the nose dive. I want to be clear, the body of Christ the church universal will survive, not even the gates of hell can stop it. I only wonder about this thing called the United Methodist Church. It is time for change, and it begins with individuals refusing to be ruled by fear, and being lead by faith.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wrap Up

Today marked the end of the thirty day journey through the book, One Life To Live. Looking back the obvious question is what are we waiting for. It is easy to see how we would live differently with the knowledge of only having one month to live. What are we waiting for, why not transform our lives now. Wouldn't it be great to know at the end of our days we don't have to change the way we live?

I want to invite all reading this, and myself, to continue to make the shifts in our lives to live life to the fullest. Christ wanted to give us life to the full, not just ordinary life. See John 10:10. Let's all commit to doing what it takes to claim the life Christ died to give us. A life filled with grace, mercy, compassion and love for God and others.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Matters

We all work pretty hard. If your life is like mine there is usually not a shortage of things to do. The list grows by the day. How much of what we do here on earth really matters? Perhaps that is the wrong question. Maybe a better question is, am I doing on earth what really matters. Let's face it, all that we do here on earth will pass away. We can however store up our deeds in eternity. Our service to God here on earth follows us to eternity.

Eternity is a favorite topic of many churches, yet we often have a pretty faulty impression of eternity. Before unpacking this more I must clearly state eternity is a given. Every single person will have eternity, the question is where will you spend it. Will you have a perfect and full relationship with God or will you be forever separated from God? The choices we make here on earth and the ways we live our lives here on earth determine the answers to those questions.

The reality is that nothing we do now is for the sake of now. The implications are much larger. Everything we do is preparing for eternity. We are in training for the life that is to come. We must not dismiss our responsibilities here and now, just remember here and now is not everything.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are We Living Yet?

Right now there are many news articles about our carbon footprint, or our environmental footprint. I think that being a Christ Follower demands we think about such things. What is more important than our environmental footprint however, is our spiritual footprint. What is it we are leaving in our wake? Do people experience grace and mercy when the interact with us, or do they experience judgment and condemnation? As you can tell I am dealing with lightweight issues this morning.

The reason I am thinking about such things is due to the past few weeks I have had. A member of my congregation have been diagnosed with terminal cancer, another member died, and left a family in a lot of pain form the loss, I was not accepted into a fellowship program I wanted to be in, there are several little, but numerous, struggles in the church, and to top it all off last night one of our members 45 year old son died suddenly. This is all since April 24th of this year. Needless to say, but I will anyway, It has not been one of those seasons of life when it is easy. All this drives me to reflection. What is the point of all of it?

The point is, how do we live our lives. As you might guess I am a big fan of sermons, I think books are important to be read. We should all be reading our Bibles and engaging God in conversation, AKA prayer. These are important things, but they are matters of preparation for living our lives. None of us knows what tomorrow holds. We do not know which breath might be our last. So, it matters not what sermons we have heard or preached, it matters not what books we have read, it matters not how many times we have read our Bible, what matters is the way we live our lives.

Are people experiencing the grace and mercy of God as you live? Or do people experience an empty religion which has not live only rules and pseudo beliefs?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Can I Do?

Take a few moments to watch the evening news, read a newspaper, or listen to the radio. What you will read, hear and see is a world that is in trouble. There are more natural disasters every day. Unbelievably high numbers of people being lost in places like China and Myanmar. War rages in Iraq, and it seems like it will be only a matter of time before war with Iran breaks out. On the home front, our legislative leaders are more concerned with pro football and baseball than serving the needs of the people. Children in our country of overabundance continue to go without health care, people go hungry, people go homeless. We do not have to look very far to find people who are suffering from poor marriages or failing marriages. We don't have to look hard to find people who are broken by a broken world. To be honest with you, it all seems very daunting and overwhelming. What can I do about any of these things?

Really, what can I do? Here I am a pastor of a small, possibly insignificant church, in upstate NY. I do not have great means financially. I am even more limited with the time and energy. The problems around seem so huge. I am not sure that I can make a difference.

There is a very different reality. I can and you can make all the difference in the world. I am pretty sure I cannot do anything about the situations in China and Myanmar. I know there is nothing I can do about Iraq and Iran. I do, however, know that I can do something. The greatest tragedy would be too look around, see the challenges and opportunities, then do nothing. I guess that is part of the reason I do this blog. I pray that in some small way God can use me to inspire you. That you would feel the call of God to go out and make a difference, even if it is for just one person.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who is Calling The Shots?

A life long struggle is to follow the will of God. Many books have been written and minds far greater than mine have wrestled with this topic. On the outside it seems like a simple thing really. To follow god's will is to do whatever it is God directs us to do. Then the problem comes, what is it God desires me to do? This would get incredibly easier if things worked a little more like the magic 8 ball. You ask your question shake the ball, look in the in window and get your answer. If you do not like the answer you try again. We like the idea of this because the response is immediate, and we can manipulate it. Which brings me to the two limiting factors of our following the will of God, time and sovereignty.

Time. We all have the same amount in each day. Some people feel like the have less than others, while some feel as though they have more. Fact is we all have 24 hours. My confession is I often out more than I need to in the 24 hours. The result is I get moving too fast, and therefore struggle to wait on Gods direction. I ask God to guide me, but when the guidance takes longer than I would prefer, I make the decision based on what I want. There are times when that matches what God wanted for me, and there are plenty of times it doesn't. However the point is not where I ended, but how I got there.

Sovereignty. Now that is a nice big theological word. That is the kind of stuff seminary dreams are made of. The most basic way to understand this is to say that God will do what God will do, and part of what God does is allow us to come along side what God is doing. Now that we have that clear.? We like to be able to manipulate what it is that God would have us do to match the things we want to do. There are times when we inform God what His role will be in a given moment. When really the roles ought to be reversed. God is not about to do something just because we told Him to, no God will do what God will do. Instead of asking God to bless what we are doing, following the will of God is doing what God is blessing.

I have many least favorite bumper stickers. On the top of that list is the one which reads "God is my co-pilot. I want to stop that person and tell them I am sorry. I am sorry because they are driving to much. God is not the co-pilot, God is the pilot, and we are the flight attendants. We serve at the direction of the pilot. We can ignore the pilot, but usually the results are tragic and can even lead to a crash.

Who is flying your plane? Who is calling the shots in your life?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

For Now or Forever

Lets face it we all have pretty busy lives. There are always more things to get done in a day than there is day to get them done. At the end of each day if we choose to we can look back and determine all the things we should have done. This leads to one of life's most important questions, how do I decide what to do? There are somethings in life that simply must happen. There are obligations in life that given, like caring for children, job, food, shelter etc. What is not given is how we go about accomplishing these given tasks or obligations. To answer the important question, I think another question is needed. "Am I building for today, or for eternity?" We must wrestle to see if we are only interested in immediate gratification, or if we are looking for the really long haul. It is important to realize when we are choosing to build our life around things that will die when we do, or if we are building things that will outlast us. You guessed it, we are talking about legacy.

Today I do not have a question for us to wrestle with directly. Part of this is due to the fact I am just not up to it today. I have had a rough couple of days, and if i were to write much more, I would run the risk of being trite and inauthentic, not something I want. Therefore, I will leave us all to wrestle with the question, are we building for now or forever?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Planting Time

What will be left when you are gone? I don't mean like when you move from one place to another. When you retire. I mean when you die, what will be left behind? Every day of our lives we are planting the seeds of our legacy. Something will grow from each of our lives, will is be good fruit or bad? At the age of 32, it is often hard to think in such terms, there is still a part of me that feels the invincibility of my late teens and early 20's. The fact remains, the day will come when I end this earthly pilgrimage, and enter into rest. What will be left behind from my life?

What seeds are you planting?
It profoundly impacts me to think that I am planting seeds every moment of my life. That each action, word and choice I make plants a seed in eternity. It would not be truthful for me to say I hope people don't remember me. It would not be truthful to say that all I want is people to look at God from my life. The seeds I am hoping to be planting produce a fruit that shows my life lived following after God. That people would remember me, not for the sake of me, but because of what God did in my life. That others would find the greatness of God because I was faithful to the seed God planted in me and gave me to plant.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Where Are You Being Lead?

I have heard the quote many times, I am sure you have too, "God has put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things before I die. Right now I am so far behind I will never die." There are some obvious truths to this statement. First God has intention in our creation. We are placed here on earth for a specific set of reasons. We were not created by happenstance. Second, God expects us to do what we have been placed here to do. There is a glaring, and I know comical, error. We are all going to die. The human mortality rate is 100%, 1 out of 1 human beings dies. This is true even if we have not done the work God placed us here to do.

More people than not have wrestled with the question of what God has placed them on earth to do. There are some overarching answers, such as worship God, and be in relationship with God. I am willing to guess that we all would like to get a little more specific than that. So how do we know? In short, we don't. We do not know what the Lord has in store for us tomorrow, but each day God guides us in what we need to do that day, in preparation for tomorrow. I am convinced we do not find a once and for all direction or purpose. If we are staying connected with God, as we grow, God instills in us different passions in accordance with the development of our faith journey. Therefore we must daily listen for the voice of God, and then do what we are being lead to do.

What is God leading you to today?
This questions consumes most of my mornings. There is an answer for today, but there is also an answer for this season of my life. I hesitate to say where God is leading me because if misunderstood or misinterpreted could come off as arrogant and proud, and that is not company I wish to keep. Having said that, i feel God is leading me to bring about great change in the life of the church. I don't mean just making some subtle shifts, I am talking Martin Luther proportion. On a daily basis my heart breaks for the state of the church, specifically the church in the United States. I cannot tell the number of times I have wept over the church. This emotion and passion, I feel, is God stirring my soul to do something about the state of the church in our country. So each day I make myself available to God, so that He can build my character in his name. My drive and passion is that the Name of Christ would be made great not mine. This takes training, because there are days when I want the earthly glory, but that glory dies when I do. The glory of God lasts forever, and the work I do for that glory will endure.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How We Respond

Adversity reveals much about us as human beings. When we face challenging times we all respond in different ways. In the midst of the various responses there is a common thread. We all tend to focus on the negative more than the possibilities. Our human tendency is to be convinced that all things are going poorly, and that all is negative. Then as a last resort we turn to God and ask for help.

This is not a bad direction to turn. We should turn to God. But we might be surprised at the response God gives to us. Our petition might be to take the adversity away, to miraculously solve the problem. While this is entirely possible for God, often there is a refocusing required. Before we can experience the supernatural work of God we need to focus on what we have, not what we do not have. We need to focus on the blessings God is giving, not the adversity we face. Let's be clear, this is not easy work.

Instead of focusing on ourselves it is important to look at the ways we can be a blessing to other people in the midst of our adversity. This will refocus us more quickly than anything else around. It is easy to get into the woe is me syndrome. We must break the syndrome by reaching to other people.

Where are you focusing?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Too Many Minds

One of my favorite movies is The Last Samurai. In this movie Tom Cruise plays an American soldier who finds himself in Japan. There is a great battle between those who are trying to initiate the ways of the western world, and those who still hold to the traditional way of life. As you would expect Tom Cruise's character ends up with the Samurai instead of the army he was sent to be a part of. At one point in the movie, Cruise is training and struggling. The teach tells him he has too many minds. His thinking about too many things.

In our lives the possibility of thinking about too many things is high, and a daily happening. Another place where we have too many minds is in our character. It is not uncommon for us to act differently depending upon the people we are with. We take on several minds and try to match minds with those whom we are around. This is problematic in major ways. We should act, talk and think the same no matter who we are around, this is called integrity. We need to be of one mind and that is the mind of Christ Jesus himself.

When do you struggle with integrity?
My struggle always shows up when I am trying to impress the people I am around. I am not sure why I do this, but I do. There is something within me that drives me to impress the people around me with things that the world around us is interested in. It is important for me to remember that if I am working to impress people I will always lose. There is always going to be someone who can boast of greater success than I, there will always be someone better than I. No my measure should not be other people, but be God. At the end of my life it is God who will be before me not all these other people I try to impress.

Having integrity means living a consistent life. Consistent in always focusing on God. Consistent in being the same person no matter who you are with or what you are doing. Integrity is one of the truest measures of faith. When we trust God to be God, we can always be the person we are created to be.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's at The Center?

I know as well as anyone the many things that pull at our lives. I was just explaining to Sarah, my wife, that I am trying to narrow down the things that I am trying to manage in the coming year or so. I need to go through the process of remembering my priorities. My starting point is the center of my life. I need to get clear about what is the single thing to which all other things are anchored to. As you might guess, God is my answer. At the center of everything I do, every role I play is God, and the relationship I have with God through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Now the key is to settle everything else around that center. And when something else is the center, God is pushed out. There is only room for one thing in the center.

What competes for the center of your life?
Often it is things which are good, and godly which can creep into the center of my life pushing God out. My family, which deserves more of my time than they get, is not the center of my life. They are right there next to the center, but I cannot allow them to be the center. The congregation I serve, while they are great people, and God is doing great things within us, they cannot be the center of my life. All of the teaching opportunities which I am asked to fulfill cannot be the center. There are things like selfish ambition, laziness, greed and the like which can invade the center of my life. The key is to have others around me to snap me back to reality.

Who in your life is the reality check?
The first reality check I have is my wife. God has blessed me with a wife who gives me a lot of grace to follow after God. However, when the time comes, with great love and compassion she gently calls me back to reality. The second group of people is my covenant group. The four of us have been journeying together for over two years, and amongst many other things we provide that reality check for each other.

Kerry and Chris Shook reminded me in today's chapter in One Month to Live that whatever we worry about is taking the place of God in our lives. What is pushing God out of the center?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Motion Sickness

When my wife and I travel one of the issues we keep an eye on is the fact that my wife suffers from motion sickness. If she is not careful about where she sits in the car, or that she takes some Dramamine before boarding the plane, trouble will follow. When we experience motion sickness there are many things happening, one of which is the inability to take anything in. Most people when experiencing motion sickness do not want to eat or drink anything, for fear the one way street will become a two way street in a hurry.

I am convinced the same thing happens in our relationship with God. We experience a spiritual motion sickness. The most common cause is moving too fast through life. Moving through life at a speed where we miss all the things God is teaching us. We run the race of life with great pace, and along the way we begin to feel empty. If we do not change our course, that emptiness becomes an aching, the aching becomes a longing, and before long we have full blown spiritual motion sickness. The cure, slow down and get a good view. Let God teach you. Let God fill what is missing in your life.

Are you moving too fast?
The unfortunate answer for me is yes. I am trying to cram too much into my days. As I have accepted greater responsibility, I have not relinquished some things that are well-intended but trivial at the moment. Howard Hendicks says the key to concentration is elimination. The key to curing spiritual motion sickness is to eliminate those things in life which are merely busy work, so you will have time to stop and enjoy the presence of God.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Storm Clouds Brewing

The home I grew up in was strategically located so we could watch the weather. There was a large wind facing the prevailing weather patterns, and we would watch the storms roll in from the west. I loved watching the storms approach and ramble their way across the corn field. Just as amazing was when the storm was passing the end could be seen. A point came when while still in the storm, the clearing could be seen. There were plenty of times when we could not see the clearing, but nonetheless it would come.

Life is full of storms, some we see coming and others not so much. It is easy to get lost in the storm. We think that the storm of life we are facing is all that will ever be. It becomes nearly impossible to think that we will survive the storm. Then the clearing comes. We need to learn to see through the storm, to what lies on the other side.

What storms are you facing?
Right now there really are not any storms blowing in my life. This does not mean there are no clouds in the distance brewing. Pieces are falling into place that will make the next few years very prone to storms. The pace of my life and demands on my time will be high. This usually means the storms hit quickly with great force. How will I hold on? Knowing that I can cling to one who is greater than the storm. Knowing that I am being taught valuable lessons of faith and development.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Gifts We Are Given

As I said in the last post, we are all uniquely designed and created by God to be exactly the person we are. This includes the ways in which God has gifted us for work in the Kingdom. The way that we created with gifts is not a matter of happenstance. God knit us together exactly as He intended. I am sure that many have heard the cliche, God does not make junk. Our giftedness goes well beyonds matters of junk, in into living the life that Christ died to give each one of us. When we are not using and developing the gifts given to us by God we are hurting the Body of Christ, and dishonoring the work of God in our creation.

What are the gifts God has given you for work in the Kingdom?
This in some ways is very easy to answer, on the other hand it is very difficult. Many of you reading this perhaps have a better handle on my giftings than I do. That being said I thing God has given me the gift of leading others, the gift of teaching others, and the gift of initiating and innovating transformation. My understanding of this comes from the places and ministry God continues to put before me.

Make sure to take some time today and reflect on your giftedness. Also take some time today to tell other people the gifts you see in them.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Identiy Theft

There are hundreds possibly thousands of products and companies who are invested in protecting your identity. Whether it is on the computer, through your credit card, or through monitoring of you or credit account. It is a big deal when someone steals your identity. While all this is a huge threat in our world often we ignore the greatest threat of identity theft. Satan, the enemy of God, is out to steal our identity as children of God. To help us feel like we have no worth and are not able to accomplish anything of value.

That is not how we have been created. We have been uniquely designed and created by God to have the identity that God has given us. Each of us has our own identity, and it is not like another persons. We all have strengths and weakness. If we are not careful we begin to believe the lie that our weakness limits our ability to be a child of God. We are directly and indirectly told to forget about the strengths God has given us, and focus on eliminating the areas of weakness. Plain and simple there is a value placed on being good at all things, this is not a value of God. God enjoys, created and celebrates diversity.

When was the last time your identity was being stolen?
In many was this is a constant battle for me. As a pastor there are many people who have ideas about what I should say and do. I have begun to get pretty clear about the way in which God has knit me together, and that does not always fit the classic understanding of pastor, especially in the United Methodist tradition. As I grow tired and weak, I hear the voices calling me to change my way of ministry, or to quit, and I think those voices are right. Those are the times when my identity is being stolen. God is no thief.

For me everyday is an exercise in letting God lead me. Everyday I am learning to trust who God made me to be. Not everyone will like it, and people will tell me I need to be different. But I think if I deny who God has made me to be I will dishonoring my creator. Not a good place to be.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Deeper Connection

Sorry to miss a few days as I have been traveling, and not always able to blog.

Today I want to focus on communication. Our world is full of people talking, making noise and thinking that they are communicating. In reality most of the time we are simply making noise. Communication is about more than a transfer of words and sounds. Communication is going past the levels of superficiality into deep relationship. Therefore it involves three things which can be in short order, time, effort and energy. Yet we long for a connection with other people where we are doing more than simply sharing words and sounds.

How do we get passed the surface?
I think the first step is one of the more difficult steps. We must become vulnerable. Many are the reasons for us to have a good defense system. Many are the opportunities we have had to be hurt and wounded by risking connection. There are people in our world who are looking to cause harm to people through connection. Still, if we are going to develop deep relationships with people we need to finds ways to connect through communication. This will involve risk. We will have to let down our guard and trust. I am not sure we should do this with everyone, but I am sure that if we do it with no one, we will never find the connections we are longing for.

How do I sustain connection?
Now here comes an answer that could be seen as a typical pastor answer. Our key to sustaining relationships and connection is to remain connected to God. God is the one who authors all relationships. God is the one who created humanity for the sole purpose of relationship. God knows what it takes to be in relationship and knows how to be vulnerable. Many would do well to review John 15 at this point, but there is a passage in Exodus which speaks more to me. In Exodus 34, God reminds us the He is passionate about a relationship with us. That passion is what we need to tap into for the power to sustain connection.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fight Well

Conflict is a fact of life. We are constantly balancing and dealing with conflict. The real question is not what to do if conflict arises, it is how do I manage my life of conflict. Kerry Shook, the author of One Month To Live, uses the image of a boxing ring, and styles of fighters to assess our style of conflict management.

What is your fighting style?
As I said the author uses boxing styles, I found my style was not really represented. I tend to be the aggressive fighter. Conflict is a place I have learned to be comfortable with, and step into it in a very forthright way. Now I admit this style leave me open to being knocked out, but sometimes that is exactly what I need. A knockout can focus, and give determination to a fighter. Now there is pain and recovery, but the hope is that attention will be paid to appropriate issues.

The biggest obstacle to healthy conflict fighting is indifference. When we reach a point when we don't care that we are punching or being punched. In this state we are dangerous to ourselves and those we are in relationship. Quite honestly, this is the cowards way through life, and will leave all our relationships, including that with God, in the shallow end of the pool. There is not a right style of conflict management, but there are some wrong ways.

Let God guide you as you trust Him through all your conflict. May we all fight well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Relationships are hard work. Establishing a relationship takes effort, yes, but the real challenge is found in maintaining them. Finding ways to cultivate deep and lasting relationships is a life long pursuit. The challenges standing in the way are many, but we can anchor to s source of relational truth. The three biggest challenges to relationship are, misunderstanding, me-first disease, and mistakes.

Which of the three challenges most commonly derails your relationships?
As painful as it is to admit, mine would have to be the me-first disease. The challenge in writing about it, I run the risk of falling prey to this disease even more. So to keep it simple, I try to gain too much for selfish reasons in relationships if I am not careful.

What is the remedy?
For me the remedy is as simple as asking myself a simple question. That question, how can I serve the person I am in a relationship with. Not so i can get something from them in return. Simply how can I serve them. Maybe in another set of terms, How can I be like Christ to other people?

The biggest key in all relationships to me is trusting God to be God. Trust the promises of God. If I am looking for relationships outside of God to satisfy my soul, then I am looking in the wrong places. This goes for every relationship in my life, including my wife, children and all those who I am most close with.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Today's reading in One Life To Live reminded me of the depth of God's love for us. Moreover, the fact that we often settle for staying shallow rather than going deep with God. Many have said that it is willingness, or a lack thereof, which keeps us form going deeper with God. I am not sure that is the true problem. I think we often try to dive deep, but there are things that hold us to the surface. All those things that hold us at the surface can be summed up in one word, unforgiveness.

When we have unforgiveness in our lives it is like tying a buoy around our waist and trying to dive. No matter how hard we try, the buoy will pull us back to the surface, preventing us from going deep. For some there are many relationships and areas of life where unforgiveness is at the center. The more buoys you tie around you the harder it will be to dive deep. Additionally, the more buoys you have the faster and more painfully you snap back to the surface.

What would it look like to cut the buoy?
It is one thing to recognize there is something holding you back. It is another thing all together to do something about it. Forgiveness is not easy work. It means that we will have to be humble. it means we are going to have to give up a grudge that might feel good. It might mean giving up what is rightfully ours. Essentially for the seeds of forgiveness to blossom in our lives we must follow our Leader, Jesus, and die. We must die to ourselves, our agenda, and our perceived rights.

The results, we are free to dive deep in the more of what God has for us.