Sunday, November 2, 2008


Halloween night, my wife and I went out with two other couples for dinner and the movie, The Secret Life of Bees. It was a good time to get out and be with close friends. All our kids are beyond the age to make a big deal about the evening, so any excuse to avoid trick or treaters and staying home with the lights turned off appealed to me. The restaurant staff was in full costume though, including a Sarah Palin look alike.

I generally don't pray out loud in restaurants, believing that prayer is sacred and not to be done for show, but in private, where our Heavenly Father can see us. In this instance however, everyone else at the table joined hands to pray for the meal. Feeling awkward, I clasped hands with the others and J.T. thanked God for the food. My silent prayer was that he would be quick about it, because I didn't want to draw the attention of others. J.T. prayed and immediately after, realizing the discomfort, began singing Kum-Ba-Yah. We all chuckled with comic relief.
ChurchedI bought a new memoir today, by author Matthew Paul Turner. The book is entitled, Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, and reading it reminded me of the antics many of us have encountered from being "churched." Like the author who finds the humor of his upbringing in the church, we still desire to love God and others regardless of all the nonsense we've been through in the past and even now, still sometimes experience. It's great to be able to laugh about our own fumblings toward being the people God wants us to be!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Because of the economic troubles that many of us are sharing in at this time, we have been trying to cut back on our spending and look for ways in which we can save. This has required us to examine more closely how we live.

The weather has been getting colder, so I've been wearing my winter jacket lately. Today I happened to find an old folded invoice in the inside vest pocket. Scribbled on the front and back side of the paper were notes I had taken a couple years ago while listening to a lecture by Eugene Peterson. One of the quotes resonated with me.

"Prudence means taking what we have right now and using it intentionally for God. Everything you need to respond to God you have right now. You don't have to go looking for supplements. You don't have to take another course. You don't have to get your relationship tidied up, so you're ready. It's all there now! Exactly everything you need to respond to Jesus is there. And that's what prudence is__it's taking seriously what is given to us for the purposes of life and living. And for us, more specifically, living for God. Living intentionally with God."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Last Sunday my wife and I were visiting with friends after church and P.F. recommended a book that she had been reading. Later that day I tried to look up the book online, but couldn't remember the authors name or the book title for that matter. I sent P.F. an email to ask her about the book and found her summary of the book very compelling. Most of the following is excerpts from our correspondence.

She said, "The name of the book is Addiction & Grace, by Gerald May, MD. Scott Peck called it exquisitely written, and it truly is. The point of the book is that our attachments keep us from loving God and our neighbor. It is these addictions that create other gods for us, and because of our addictions we will always be storing up treasures somewhere other than heaven, and these treasures will kidnap our hearts. The book calls us to basically accept our incompleteness (rather than trying to fill it) and states that we can't personally achieve the state of perfection, that we must state our condition of incompleteness. And that this incompleteness within us does not make us unacceptable in God's eyes. He says that our incompleteness is the empty side of our longing for God and for love. It is what draws us toward God and one another. He says that if we don't fill our minds with guilt and recriminations, we will recognize our incompleteness as a kind of spaciousness into which we can welcome the flow of Grace. He says that we can think of our inadequacies as terrible defects if we want, and hate ourselves. But we can also think of them affirmatively, as doorways through which the power of grace can enter our lives. He covers the characteristics of addiction and how to heal. There are so many deeply profound thoughts in this book, I can't recommend it enough. It is a book of hope! Get it or borrow it!!!"

I commented, that what she was describing so well was the practice of "detachment." And that the teaching of detachment is found in many religious faiths, especially in the Buddhist faith. I remarked, that Scott Peck always did have a Buddhist bent. The first line in his book, The Road Less Traveled is the Buddhist sentiment, “Life is difficult.” Others have called it the "art of letting go." Also, Larry Crabb wrote an excellent book called, The Pressure's Off: There's a New Way to Live.

She said, "I think the one thing that is different between other spiritual tradition's idea of detachment and the one put forth in Dr. May's book is that human effort to detach is futile. We can't do it, no matter how spiritual we try to become! That we need Grace, God's holy intervention, along with our own actions, to succeed at letting go. The problem is that we choose attachments to fill up those spaces where Grace could have come in. My favorite definition of detachment is in Dr. May's book; he says it's "the liberation of desire" or freedom, and through freedom we can come ultimately to love."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

....knowing God from an early age

J.T. mentioned having had a real sense of knowing God from an early age. He related his experience of realization happened while serving as an alter boy in the Catholic Church. J.T. commented that after sharing this at a leadership conference, someone exclaimed that he had had a "John Wesley experience!"

I googled John Wesley and found that at the age of five, John was rescued from the burning rectory. This escape made a deep impression on his mind; and he regarded himself as providentially set apart, as a "brand plucked from the burning."

I would have to say that my parents and grandparents instilled in me an early faith in Jesus. I remember conversations about God and heaven that I had with my granddad as a young boy. One of these conversations was after I had had a fight with my older brother and he was giving me the silent treatment. I was mad because I knew that the only way to set things right with my brother was to apologize. I told my granddad that this situation made me angry because I always seemed to be the one who apologized first. My granddad empathized with my position, but proceeded to explain that Jesus had said, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). I've never since, struggled much against being the first one to say, "I'm sorry" in a conflict.

I have a vivid childhood memory of entertaining myself by singing "He's got the whole world in His hands" while running and jumping on the sidewalk out in front of my grandparents house. I spent that summer with granddad and grandmother. We attended the First Baptist Church across the street. I remember the sense of pride that I had because my granddad helped build that church and my grandmother taught Sunday school.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

undiscipled disciples....

I met a woman in Borders a few weeks ago. She was in the religious book section and looked like she needed assistance. I asked her if I could help her find a specific book and she volunteered in frustration that she had been going to church all her life but she didn’t know why she did anymore. She confessed that she was looking for a book, but didn’t have any idea what she wanted. Although this woman shared that she went to church it was obvious that she was disheartened about her Christian faith. I encouraged her to read Bruxy Cavey’s book, The End of Religion.

Unfortunately, many Christians never experience the “abundant life” promised by Jesus. Dallas Willard says this disparity has come about because of the “Great Omission.” Christ commanded Christians to go out into the world and make disciples of all peoples. Willard believes that discipleship is to often viewed as optional or for “Super Christians” rather than an imperative choice for all Christians. Yet Jesus called believers to follow him, to be disciples or apprentices. Being a disciple is more than just asking Christ in our life and heart, and goes far beyond baptism or our church membership. The Christian life is more than an “insurance policy” or “free ticket” to heaven or the eternal hereafter.

Others wrote about the “Great Omission” in the “Great Commission.” A.W. Tozer called it a “great heresy” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “cheap grace.” The British preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say that in most Churches we hear only half the Gospel. We preach eternal salvation by grace but often fail to encourage the changed or sanctified life. A sanctified life is a life set apart as or declared holy, a consecrated life. The disciple is a student; one who follows or learns from a teacher. Discipleship is more than right thinking, it’s right living. The Christian who fails to see the value of their salvation beyond their eternal security has missed the point. Dallas Willard says, that this is like being a Christian Vampire, “I’ll have a little blood, but I want to live my life now and I’ll see you later in heaven.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 the Spirit

I've been reconnecting with the joy of my salvation!  I'm overwhelmed with gratitude towards God, in Christ Jesus for the grace that is continually showered on me.  Dallas Willard says, the Kingdom of God (meaning: the reign, government, rule, leadership, control, administration, regulation, management, supervision of the Spirit) should be characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit.  This righteousness is more than goodness, it is God's transforming life working in me changing my very nature.  This is an ongoing supernatural phenomenon!  In the same way God's peace is pervasive, transcending even difficult times, when I give it to God in prayer. It is a peace that passes all understanding.  The peace that comes from life in the Spirit gives me freedom.  Allowing me to freely love my neighbor, family, coworker, house-mate, and even my "enemies," whoever they may be.  The joy that should characterize every disciple of Jesus is rooted in our identity "in Christ."  We love God because he first loved us.  This love was not a one time thing.  It is not pass tense or just something that happened once in the history of my conversion.  God is always loving us.  The Apostle John did not write that God was loving, he said, "God is Love."

....without distinctions.

Two years ago, I decided to attend Saint Stephens Episcopal Church.  I thought that I needed a different worship experience. I was feeling discouraged about my faith and thought a change in practice and place would help. Sometimes when people talk about their “spirituality” they speak about having the need to experience more of the sacred. Unhappy with my own tradition, I thought that the rituals and traditions in the Episcopal Church would possibly instill a sense of the sacred in me. I found the liturgy and celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday to be a solemn and sacred event, but it wasn’t what I was looking for, it eventually left me feeling hollow.

I worked at the Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center, located in the redwoods near Santa Cruz the summer after my freshman year of college.  When people would come to the retreat center on pilgrimage to the redwoods, it was common, almost cliché to hear them ask, ”What’s it like to live in God’s country?”  Is God especially present, more apprehensible or closer in some places more than others? “Taking their cues from the teaching of Jesus, the earliest followers finally came to realize that they didn’t need holy buildings or special places to meet with God.  They saw themselves as living stones, built together into a new organic temple, made up of the people of God.  They believed that the Spirit of God dwelled within this relational temple, this sanctuary-as-community (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22) and that their entire lives were altars upon which to offer sacrificial love to God and others (see Romans 12:1).  Because of Jesus, they understood that all of life is holy and every relationship sacred.”

In a lecture series during the Missio Conference at Fuller Theological Seminary, speaker Alan Hirsch said, “What we’ve ended up with are vague reflections of what Jesus was in the gospels.”  He points out that the reason for this is that we have built our religious systems over the top of it.  In doing so we haveEllul_3_6obscured the centrality of Jesus in our lives. Hirsch refers to the writings of Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity.  He insists that one way we have subverted the Gospel is by the sacralization of time and space. The idea that some days are more holy than others and some places more sacred can be subversive when these things become important in themselves. The Scriptures point out that all of the earth is the Lord’s, without distinctions.

Bruxy_2Bruxy Cavey says, “The Western practice of referring to church buildings as ‘churches’ (rather than the building where a church meets) can work against our ability to see this truth.  Some Christians not only call the buildings they meet in ‘church’ but they also call a special room where they hold Sunday services the ‘sanctuary,’ a word that means the sacred place where God dwells.  And, to confuse our minds just a little bit more, at the front of the sanctuary is often a big table called the ‘alter,’ a word that refers to animal sacrifice in the Old Testament ritual.  But the only alter, the only place of sacrifice Christ-followers should need, is the alter of daily decisions of our lives, where we offer God our energies and agendas, our choices and our lives, where we offer God our desires as “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

Like my hope in finding something more in the Episcopal Church or the sacral adoration of nature, I have often sought a “sense of the sacred” rather than the face of God.  But on a positive note though, LeonardSweet_2 Sweet says, “Ritual is not the way, the truth, and life, but ritual is a reminder that there is a way, a truth, and a life. Rituals fix you in space and time. Change your rituals and you change your ‘fixings.’  Change your ‘fixings’ and you change your realities.”  These limits and directions can help us frame our activities; fix a center, orient ourselves. All places are not the same; just as all days aren’t the same. Setting them apart establishes differences that can help provide order to life.