Thursday, May 30, 2013

WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?

ONE OF THE THINGS THE PASTORAL CALL AFFORDS ME is the opportunity to be allowed to peer into the lives of people. Some grant you the opportunity to peek around the curtain of their souls and see that the Great and Powerful Wizard is nothing but smoke and mirrors.  

Some let you have this peek behind the curtain because they desire to be set free from those trappings that have held them in bondage for so long. Sadly, there are also those who want you to see behind the shroud but for no other reason than to let you see how bad it is.

I guess, as a doctor to souls, that is what saddens me the most. Not the torridness of their tragedies, but their deep desire to truly not be healed. For some reason the pain that they are experiencing is less painful than prospect of being healed.

This great little video short paints that picture oh, so well. Jason Headly's creative art is at once both powerful and sad, and speaks well to the issue at-hand.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

THE CATHARTIC BLOG

SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO BLOG YOUR THOUGHTS in order to get things of your chest and out of your spirit so that you can think more clearly.  Consider this one of those blog-posts.

The catharsis is arriving from the book I am reading (started reading it for Lizzie's sake to see if I could help her move her photography future on a little bit.) The book is by Michael Hyatt entitled, Platform: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World, and of course, once I started reading it the lessons proved be personally-focused into my own little world.

In the beginning of the book Mr. Hyatt writes about one of the first things needed in building your platform is having something to sell or say that contain a "Wow!" factor. Kind of like coming through the Wawona Tunnel and seeing Yosemite Valley expanding before you. As I thought about the wow factor to my platform (preaching, teaching, pastoring) I realized I didn't have one.

I am saddened by the reality that I cannot seem to place my finger on that wow factor even as it relates to my relationship with Christ, His covenant, His commands or His church. Now, I know some of you who are reading this who know me maybe disagreeing with me, or worried about me, if you are thank you...may that lead you to prayer for me. But the reality is that none of these things seem  to be producing the wow factor that I need and that I desire.

This all saddens me because it makes me think that I have settled into the "Methodological Mediocrity of Ministry. My prayer is, "LORD, how do I escape and return to the "wow" of You and Your work?

I suppose this is a good question to poise to each of us from time to time. Some of the answer, I guess, is found in the Scriptures at the bottom of my journal pages of the last two days (interesting how that just seems to happen.)

"If you want to know what God wants your to do -- ask Him, and He will gladly tell you." (James 1:5)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Good places to start for this cathartic heart.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

JUXTAPOSED IS JUST THAT: a review

JUXTAPOSED: FINDING SANCTUARY ON THE OUTSIDE, by Daisy Rain Martin, a book I was given to review, was one in which I could find very little sanctuary for my soul.

From the cover design to the warning that this book should be only read by those who are over the age of eighteen, left me wondering what I would find within it's pages.

To be completely honest, the pdf copy I was given to review was not well put together, and that might have left me put-off from the beginning. I think the biggest issue for me is that it read like a soap opera or an attempt to write a spiritual biography in the words and pictures of Las Vegas, not task not easily done. And the length of the pdf version at over 460 pages was a daunting task, and with true full-disclosure, I did not read every page.

I guess the problem for me is that I was personally not grabbed by the story of her life, which had its very tragic moments. They story of her struggle is one from abuse to moving toward the possibility of accepting a God who loved her, while seeming to allow some very tragic events to overshadow her life.

I am sure that Ms. Martin's story will ring true for some, and I prayerfully desire that it can bring hope to those whose life is also in a state of juxtaposition between the realities of a life without God and those within the sanctuary of His love.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE END?

HAVING BOTH MY PARENTS IN HEAVEN, along with my wife's and with my role as a pastor, death seems always before me. And to be honest, the older one gets (like me) the closer it seems on a personal level.

As a pastor I have often told our senior saints at the church that if they really love their kids they would get things in order while the getting's-good, this also includes getting rid of the boat-load of stuff most of us Americans horde in our homes, garages, and storage units.

Recently, I came across this TED video, dealing with ideas on getting ready for the end of life issues.  These are some good ideas and well-worth watching for your sake and for the sake of those you love.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A CONTEMPLATIVE BOOK REVIEW

I WOULD LIKE TO SEE MYSELF AS A CONTEMPLATIVE person, but after reading Carl McColman's, Answering the Contemplative Call: First Steps on the Mystical Path, I have come to realize that the role of the contemplative Christian is not always so, how should I say, contemplative.

That being said, I did find McColman's work enlightening and helpful in moving toward a life that seeks to know God better and at the same time seeks to work out that relationship with fear and trembling in the midst of the world that knows little of either God or contemplation, by that I mean a life that purposefully seeks to slow down enough to listen for the still small voice of the Spirit.

I appreciated the author's work of history-telling; placing the call to the contemplative life in the midst of the lives of those from the distant, and not so distant, past. If for no other reason, the book was worth reading to gain insight into the lives of those who the church has seen as setting the bar for the contemplative life. I appreciated having their histories given in light of both their successes and their failures.  Maybe a better word than "failures" would be in their humanness.

As one who is personally drawn to this call, I found encouragement in the revelation that one need not be super spiritual to move forward. I also appreciated the author's practical suggestions for opening ones heart to the life that would lead to a deeper walk with the Lord.

It was also good to note, that the contemplative life is not just one of ivory towers or desert caves, but also includes the living out of ones walk in areas of justice and compassion.

Toward the end of the book, McColman directs the reader to the desires of Julian of Norwich, he writes that she was a,
"woman of prayer who prayed to know Christ's passion as fully as has she could, and who prayed for what she called the 'three wounds' of true contrition, compassion, and the willful longing to God. In other words she wanted to be 'opened up'-- for a wound is an opening, a breach in our defenses,-- by authentic sorrow for her misdeeds, genuine love for others, and a heartfelt longing for God." 


This is a high call, to be sure, but one which grabs at my own soul.

This is not a wound that is easily borne, or that ever truly heals once it is opened, but when it is open by and for God, it allows the Great Physician of our souls to do His miraculous work of healing to that heart that is truly broken before Him and before others. In worship before the Sovereign Lord, and service before a needy world.

The book is at once both deep and challenging, but also leaves the reader with a hope and desire to seek answer the call of the contemplative life, a life I believe was not meant for monks and nuns, but for all who truly seek to know, worship and serve the God who is Love, in a world in desperate need of that Love.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

TOO MUCH WHINE!


WHEN DOES A PERSON HAVE TOO MUCH WHINE? It usually happens when they are no longer in control of their life situation. Tell a child they can’t have that tempting candy bar at the check-out line and the whine begins to tumble out. Tell a teen-ager they have to be in by 10:00pm and the whine begins to flow. Tell the one with the TV remote that it’s time to hand it off to someone else and the whine dribbles across the floor. We have all experienced the effects of too much whine, and most likely have been under its inebriating power ourselves.

Sadly, the effects of too much whine can cause havoc among God’s people as well. The whine usually comes as a result of who is going to be in control in our lives. The whine deepens the further we go in our struggle of pitting our will against God’s. The whine which ensues can have far-reaching effects, not only in our relationship with God, but in our relationship with other members of God’s family.

The struggle of wills between God and us often can stem from fear, fear that God is going to do something, or require something that we do not feel capable or desirous of doing. I suppose this is one reason Jesus did not go into detail in describing what the coming of the Holy Spirit would require of the disciples. I can be pretty sure there would have been those who would have gone to whining about what was coming and how they were not ready or able to handle such an event.

Yet, when the Holy Spirit did arrive with the rushing sound of a mighty wind, with tongues of fire and with the loosing of the tongues of the disciples to utter declarations of praise about God, the only whining came from those who could not, or maybe would not, receive the miraculous event as a gift from God. To those unwilling to see and hear the power-filled event this was nothing more than a bunch of babbling Galileans. But, to those who cared
enough to stay and listen what they heard was the proclamation of the good news of redemption through the death and resurrection of God’s Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

What about us, here 2000 years later? Are we willing to submit to the command of the Lord, to go into all the world and make disciples of all peoples? Do we whine and say we are not ready, we are not capable, or do we humbly receive the Gift given and respond with the words of the Prophet, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

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Monday, May 13, 2013

SPIRITUAL MOMS


OFTEN, I HAVE HEARD PEOPLE REFER to certain individual as their spiritual fathers. Seldom have I heard of people referring to their spiritual mothers. While I am sure they exist, they are not spoken of in general conversations regarding our personal spiritual growth.

I think it is time for that trend to change, and Mother’s Day seems like a great day to begin that new trend.

Personally, I have been blessed to have had a number of “spiritual moms.” Often they tended to be more in the realm of spiritual grandmas. Their impact into my life was not something that was scheduled or even known by them, but through their lives, words of challenge and encouragement they built into my life. These women were (are) women of temperance and grace. They exhibit a high trust in the Lord, for a number of them are widows. There quiet longsuffering, consistent prayer, love of God’s Word and selfless service to the Lord and His church have taught me much as I have sought to learn what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and to endeavor to be a shepherd to His flock.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute to my moms-in-Christ. Thank you for your prayers, your kind words and even the occasional kick-in-the-pants. God bless you for the quiet example of steadfast faithfulness. May God bless you richly as you have been a blessing to me and to many others as well.

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Sunday, May 05, 2013

THINGS REMEMBERED


I LOVE MY WIFE, SHE’S CUTE. She is cute in all the right sort of ways a wife should be cute after thirty-five years of marriage. One of the things I love about her is that she seeks to see God in the ordinary, everyday things of life and creation. She rejoices in the way God causes the light to stream through misty-morning redwoods and at the sound of the song-birds early in the morning. She has a knack for seeing God, and I believe that knack comes from the fact that she is looking for God.

One of the ways Linda looks for God is to keep a sharp eye out for her birthday numbers,  that is the combination of the month and day, May 14th. When she notices the number of the month: 5 and the day of the month: 14, put together she will tell me that God is thinking about her.

Now, theologically I realize that God is always thinking about her, because that is what God does, He thinks good thoughts about His children. (Psalm 139) The truth is we often forget that reality, that a loving God thinks loving thoughts about His children. Therefore, Linda’s cute little reminder is the number 514.

We will be driving down the street and she will see the number 514 on a road sign and she will declare, “God is thinking of me.” She will see the numbers on a digital clock read out 5:14, and she will softly say, “God is thinking of me.” She will notice the amount on the cash register read $5.14 and she will once again, simply say, “God is thinking of me.”  It’s got to the point that she has me doing it, too. The other day I saw the numbers 514 on a license plate, and I turned and said to her, “God is thinking of you.”

So, as I stated above, “I love my wife!” I love the cute little thing she does that reminds me of a great theological truth, “God loves me and is thinking of me always.” All we need do is keep our eyes open to that truth and we shall see it all around us.

Oh, by the way, He loves you, too!  

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Friday, May 03, 2013

WHO WILL YOU CHAMPION TODAY?

HERE IS A GREAT CHALLENGE from a lady who speaks from the heart, to the heart, for the heart. Rira Pierson brought tears to my eyes, conviction to my heart and a challenge to my soul. (Boy, can this woman preach!)

How great it would be to heed her call to become champions for the children in our lives. Whether in our schools or churches, or in our communities and neighborhoods, we are called to call the children. This is part of our mandate as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Jesus told us to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES of ALL NATIONS (Matthew 28:19-20) and that GOING  and MAKING can start, must start, right here at home. Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto Me and do not hinder them." (Matthew 19:12-15)

Will you rise up to be a champion for a child? Maybe it means starting at home. Maybe it means helping out at your local school or church. Maybe it means supporting a child through a ministry like Compassion International.  Whatever, wherever, let us encourage, challenge and raise up a new generation of children who will love and serve and lead.


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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

ALLERGY SEASON

allergies
allergies (Photo credit: jfl1066)

YES, IT IS THAT TIME OF YEAR when noses clog and eyes water and sneezing ensues. Allergy season 2013 is here and abundantly evident, and given the shortness of our winter this year it may be even a little early.

The culprit, in most cases, is some small, often unseen spore. Sounds like a bad science-fiction movie, “The Spores Among Us!” The irritant floats through the air, is breathed into our nostrils and there begins its diabolical work of turning us into a runny-nosed, red-eyed, zombie. The zombie effect coming from the drugs we take to hopefully help stay-off the attack of the infamous spore.

Sure, there are steps we can take to help fight off these vicious attacks. We can stay indoors, we can don filter masks, we can refuse to cut the lawn, we can take the aforementioned allergy medicine (non-drowsy formula, yeah right, like that is really true.) The dark reality is that we, for the most part, just have to battle through these subversive assaults.

The thing that amazes me is how something so small, sometimes unseen, can cause such a powerful effect on the everyday events of our lives. There are times when we can actually see the nemesis floating toward us, but we know by the time we have seen it, it is too late, we most likely already inhaled its minute warships deep into our lungs…we’re goners!

I was wondering if there are some lessons from these allergens that we could learn? How could we apply them to our daily lives as Christ’s disciples? Could we live our lives in such a way so as to not draw attention to ourselves but still affect the people around us with the love of God and the truth of the Gospel? Why not?

Here’s an encouragement and challenge for each of us in this life-renewing time of the year. Let us each discover ways in which we can impart the love, grace, mercy, joy, forgiveness, hope and peace into the lives of people we meet each day. Small ways, so that we can remain unseen, but the reality of God’s love is expressed, and the Father who sees what is done in secret will reward those unseen agents of His grace. (Matthew 6:4)  Jesus told His followers to “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) Note that people will see the good deeds, but not necessarily see the one doing the deed.

So, what are some ways we can perform these unseen, God-glorifying deeds?
  •       Write an unsigned note of encouragement or praise.
  •       Pray every day for your neighbors, even the hard to love ones.
  •       Do a “knock & drop,” leaving a plate of goodies on someone’s doorstep.
  •       Pick-up the trash at school or as you walk along the sidewalk.
  •       Provide a cord of wood for a widow in need.
  •       Smile. It gets them every time.
  •       Say a kind, encouraging word to a complete stranger.

What things would you add to the list? I would love to hear your ideas. I would love to hear the God-sightings that just might grow from these quiet acts of grace.

Let us remember that true grace is not loud, it is not pushed upon others, it is quiet and purposeful. Even upon the cross our Lord Jesus did not shout out, “Hey! Look at Me, I’m saving the world!” No, He in quiet agony, almost completely alone, with no one, not even those closest to Him, understanding what a great gift was being given. 

May we so give. 

May we so live.

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