Monday, November 24, 2008


I'm helping out at our church's Thanksgiving service. I am praying a prayer of thanks. Here it is. Lots to be thankful about.

"Almighty God, Many of us here have had interesting years. We’ve battled with health, with relationships, and now we’re at war with the economy. And yet, we are here … blessed people …with thanksgiving hearts …We are so thankful.

We live in freedom.
We have opportunity.
We have access to health care.
We can dream dreams.
We can walk safely in our neighborhoods.
We are able to speak our mind.
We have choices aplenty.
We can open a book.
Good music is in abundance.
We are able to apologize.
We can forgive
We can gather here without fear.
We can argue for what is just and not be afraid of being thrown into a jail.
We have food on our tables.
We drink clean water.
Our supermarkets are the envy of the world.
We have the opportunity to participate in the work of the Kingdom.
Our elections are open.
In emergencies help comes quickly.
We are blessed and o so thankful.
And Lord, we are especially thankful that
Through Christ we have been set free.
We have the hope and promise of eternity with you.

And we know, that no matter how low we might get …or how high our emotions might rise …that you will comfort us when we are at our lowest and you will rejoice with us when there is a time for rejoicing.

We are blessed because we can never flee from your presence.

You are our God …and we are thankful you called us to be your people.

Remind on this day and the holiday season ahead to keep our eyes on you …not our circumstance, not on the headlines …but on you …the author and perfector of our faith …the source of our thanksgiving."

As I read this prayer over I know it will hit the sweet spot for those attending our Thanksgiving service. At least I hope it does. The problem is that it's not a prayer I could pray in every church. For many people I know they're thankfulness is pulled from a different kind of well, in some respects a much deeper well.

Maybe it's smart for those of us who have much to put our thanksgiving into perspective.

I know people who have little as compared to my 'much'.

My streets are safe. Their streets aren't.

Justice isn't quite as accessible for them as it is for me.

Emergency vehicles don't zoom down their streets as quickly as they zoom down mine.

My street lights get fixed. The stay in the dark longer.

I can go into a supermarket and buy what I need. I have something called money. Many don't. Their world is different.

But God loves them. My friends know that. They love God. Because of that love and affection ...thanks wells up. There's 'thankfulness'for things rich suburban folks don't know much about.

I need to learn more about that. We all do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zig-Zag Memory

The other day I was spending time 'remembering'. I was remembering nothing in particular just kind of zig zagging through my life. It was all going well until I remembered California. Now, there is nothing wrong with California, nothing at all. In fact, I love the state. I just don't like remembering everything that happened there. I hurt someone.

I was working for a church. I was a youth minister ...young, full of myself, knowing everything. One of the pastors wanted to be my mentor. I loved the idea until his mentoring started to feel like meddling. And so I shut him out.

Looking back his meddling was in fact mentoring. I couldn't get beyond myself to see that. The killer is that I had made a pact with this guy. I had told him that if we ever hit a rough spot that I'd tell him about it and we'd go out for coffee to talk it over. Well, we hit the rough spot. I never made the call. I decided to run away from the problem. I lost a friend and a mentor.

You might be thinking ...big deal. Stuff happens. Get over it. It's not that easy.
You see, there's a reason God put this memory in my head. God does that you know. He's always in teaching mode.

I'm going to try to find him. Tell him that I was immature. That I blew it. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Maybe God will do something amazing as a result.

Every have a memory you can't get out of your head? Maybe it's something good. Do you ever wonder why that memory shows up periodically? Maybe, just maybe, there is someone you need to thank, a relationship to renew. There's someone just needing that pat on the back. God's trying to tell you to give someone the 'high five' they need badly. And maybe, just maybe, there's a memory that haunts you. You did someone wrong. Maybe God is trying to tell you that that memory is haunting someone else too. And maybe, just maybe, God is trying to tell you that it's not too late to make things right.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Even More

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. 1 Thess.4:1

Read that last sentence. I mean really look at it. "You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more." It's a pat on the back followed by a kick in the pants. Paul is telling folks that they're living good, they're living right but hey, maybe you can do this living right thing even more. Don't rest on your laurels. Don't settle for good at the expense of best.

What's this all about? I know what some of you are thinking ...this smells of 'works' salvation. Not at all. Paul is always pretty clear about grace. No, this is about not living in a rut. It's a reminder that settling leads to stagnation.

Ever have someone say 'good enough is good enough'? I have. It's a good word especially towards those who tend towards perfectionism. Most of us don't have that problem, right?

Sometimes we can use 'good enough is good enough' to claim victory in that widely popular comparison game. Truth is that I can always find someone I'm beating in the 'good enough' department.

Paul reminds us that 'even more' has the potential to get our eyes off each other and our tendency to compare and back onto the real game we're playing. That game is called 'following Jesus'.

I know, without looking too deeply, that I could love better, be more generous, care more passionately, reflect more earnestly, and use my time more wisely. So could you.

Without beating ourselves up (not easy to do for many of us) maybe we ought to spend some time asking ourselves what 'even more' might mean for our life. We do trick ourselves, you know. We fall into cultural and religious traps. And we do settle for being OK when God beckons us to more.

I don't want to be just OK. I want more. Don't want to be legalistic about it. Don't want to be depressed about my 'even more' progress. But I do know that there's a deeper 'more' that is rooted deep in my heart. I betcha it's in your heart too. We will never feel quite right until we allow that 'even more' to become what God intends it to be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin was fond of saying that when we talk about 'life issues' that we need to be wearing a seamless garment. My understanding is that our 'ethic of life' had to be consistent whether we were talking about the unborn, the marinalized, the disabled, or the elderly. Do we you have an ethic of life that weaves itself through your thinking and influences how you act, what you argue for, how you vote, and where you give your money?

Be careful. This isn't a quick answer. This is not 'proof texting' time for those inclined to whip out the Bible. This is real stuff.

Here's some questions.

Is what you believe consistent? If I watched you in action, examined your bank account would there be evidence that you value life? Do you battle for the unborn but don't care about the quality of the life of poor children? Do you care about children but try to pawn off aging parents on a more caring sibling? If you care about the marginalized how does that care and concern carry consistently through your 'theology of life'?

Do you value all people or only those you agree with? If you're Baptist do you dislike Catholics? If you're a Democrat do you dismiss Republicans? What about capital punishment? Do convicts deserve to be treated with dignity? Would you live next to a 'mosque'?

If pressed would you explain what makes your argument about life 'seamless'.

Here's my take. Most of us 'take a little of this and a little of that'. We listen to this talk show and read that magazine and read a little Scripture, watch some Oprah ...and when push comes to shove we really don't understand nor are able to articulate what we believe and why. And for those of us who are Christians, who need to put a biblical understanding on such things ...well, too many of us, if we're honest, don't have a scriptual framework for talking about it all. Don't believe me? Stand outside your church next Sunday and ask people the questions I'm posing to you. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of people wouldn't be able to lay down a consistent ethic and theology about life issues.

If you haven't noticed our world is getting increasingly complex. Hunkering down in our little 'ghettoes' isn't going to cut it. How do we engage this complex world if we don't know what our consistent belief needs to be? And even then, how does a consistent belief and ethic of life manifest itself when we have discussions with those who see things in a polar opposite way?

Let's start thinking so that we can respond intelligently. vibrantly and compassionately as the great issues of our day keep hitting center stage. What do you really believe? How seamless is your garment?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life in Motion

About three weeks ago my left eye-lid closed and didn't want to open up. The doc started treating an infection. He also suspected a possible aneurism and/or blood clot.

There have been some interpersonal disuputes that have created relational tensions in my world. Hard stuff. Blood pressure raising. No easy solutions.

We've all had the experience of receiving our quarterly 401k reports. Tough stuff.

Money issues, health anxieties, relational squabbles. How do we handle them?

The truth is that in order to deal with our health, our money issues, relationship fractures, ethical lapses, and most other important things ...the only way way to really deal with these things is to walk towards them, to embrace them, to be humbled by them, to go to school on them.

Some people want to run and hide. Others want to scream. Finger pointing has some brief delicious moments but it's childish.

Nope, walking towards and through our issues is what works. Someone told me once that it's 'easier to tame a fanatic than it is to breathe life into a corpse'. There's something about a life in motion that God can use to bring healing, understanding, and wisdom.

The most unhappy people I know are those hiding, the continually angry, and the finger-pointers. They don't know it ...but they are dead. They're using their anger, their fear, and their avoidance as burial cloths. You can almost smell the scent of 'something going bad' in them.

When I found out about my eye I was discouraged. When I was stuck in the midst of interpersonal strife I felt overwhelmed. When I opened my 401k a little fear hit me. I just wanted to go in a corner and hide away. Want to know something? That's what I did. I took probably an inappropriate amount of time to lick my wounds, to feel sorry for myself, to check my internal GPS. And then reason and grace finally kicked in. I put my life into motion ...walking towards the pain and the discomfort.

I'd like to say it's easy. It's not. I'd like to say everything all works out hunky-dory. It doesn't. Sometimes it get worse. But instead of having life happen to me, I'm discovering it's better to embrace the life I've been given.

In the midst of embracing the problem with my eye my doc was putting his life in motion to help fix it.

In the midst of embracing and moving toward the relationship issues I discovered others involved were doing the same thing.

In the midst of embracing my dwindling retirement I found no one moving toward me. That's why we're calling it an economic crisis I bet.

So two out of three isn't bad.

The truth is thatGod honors a life in motion, someone embracing life, moving towards others, edging towards solutions, accepting the fact that sin has polluted our world and bad stuff happens. But when we start 'moving' God can use us in ways that we can be an ambassador of His healing towards others and he can use others to help heal us.

And what about my eye? It's getting better. Looks healed to me.

The relational issues feel fixable because good people with good hearts are seeking God's best.

My dwindling retirement is still dwindling but I'm realizing my faith has to be in the Lord, not the stock market.

Not bad.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Risk + God = Adventure

At our Higher Ground meeting on Monday we talked about ‘Taking Risks’. I said that ‘risk’ is necessary for a living faith. You can’t live faithfully without venturing out into the unknown.

I like my comfort zone. Don’t you? I like to know what I know. I like to sit around with comfortable people doing comfortable things in comfortable settings. I like to do what I like. It’s human nature.

I prefer safety to risk. And if I have to take a risk I want it measured, controllable. The more I get comfortable the more it becomes all about me.

I heard storyteller Stephen James recently. He said something like this …”Most people work in jobs they don’t like, for a boss they don’t respect, with people they can barely endure to make enough money to buy a whole lot of things they really don’t need. Do it long enough and people look at you and say “Wow, he/she has really achieved success.”

So, is that really living? I’ve been there. Done that. It’s boring really.

This life of faith, I think, is lived out by many people in such a way that it looks like it’s as interesting as root canal. It’s predictable, heavy on rules, and much about score keeping. Welcome to the abundant life.

I’ve experienced faith though that’s different. It looks like this: Risk+God=Adventure. When I risk, trusting God for more, not less I really do feel like I’m on the edge of adventure.

It’s a little scary. Let me take that back. It’s a lot scary. That’s because I don’t live out there on the ‘edge’ enough. I get out of practice. Have I already told you I prefer safety to risk?

So, what does this all mean? Maybe it’s time for an adventure. There’s enough in Scripture that reminds me to invest my life. Is there a dream I need to deal with? Can my dream intersect with someone else’s to take me somewhere that's greater than my own personal vision? Is there something bold being asked of me?

Stay tuned. By the way, if you know me …and God impresses you with something I should know about my next ‘adventure’ …let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's Over

It's over. This long election season is history. America did itself proud. Huge turnout. Few problems.

Some random observations.

This past summer I went on the Justice Journey. The Journey was a bus trip to the major civil rights sites in the south. Half our crew was white. The other half was African-American. Several times we heard what the Obama candidacy meant to our African-American brothers and sisters. The candidacy was a partical fulfilment of the dream, the mountain top that MLK spoke about. When Inauguration day comes it will touch them in very profound mountain top ways. We need to understand that perspective.

I cried last night while watching Obama's speech. The words were well spoken. The visual images were stunning. The meaning for a world that is predominantly non-white was staggering. I thought of my fellow Justice Journey mates. I was moved deeply.

I found myself praying this morning for President Bush and President-elect Barak Obama. I prayed that Bush might finish well. For Obama, I prayed for safety, for wisdom. I prayed that he might draw even closer to Jesus.

I was proud of John McCain. His speech was gracious, unifying, statesmanlike. I have a hunch that he will continue to play a key role in what I hope is a much more bi-partisan approach to governing our nation.

Now we must face our future. Now we all need to ask ourselves what 'we' will do. An election is an election is an election. Life beckons everyday. How then shall we live? The issues we face are staggering on a macro level. That's why our elected officials need our prayer and our input. But everyday we get to make micro decisions about how we use our time, how we will spend our money, how we will love our brothers and sisters and how we will use our gifts and talents for true 'kingdom' purposes. Those decisions are the choices that can start a 'ripple of concern' around the globe. You see, no matter who lives in the White House there is only so much he can do. We have the power to make our part of the world a better place. When we do that out.

Monday, November 03, 2008

When the election is over?

History shows us that our electoral process is remarkably civil. For instance, when the chads were found hanging we managed to deal with that in a fairly grace filled manner.

But in less than 48 hours. we’ll have a new President. Some are predicting wide-spread ‘negativity’ no matter who wins. We know the possibility exists because there is something different about this world this time around. It feels like people are spoiling for a fight. The negative e-mails I get and the letters I see published make me cringe with embarrassment and fear at times.

The truth is that in the aftermath of this election there is some real possibility for ugliness. Add liberal vs. conservative, race, a horrid war, and a messy economic crisis to the electoral cauldron, have it get stirred by a handful of idiots and voila …we got problems. There’s lot riding on this election. Lots of hopes and dreams.

What’s our role?

We need to be reconcilers, bridge builders. We can’t buy into any ugliness. Here’s how I see it. If my candidate doesn’t get elected the world won’t end. God will still be in the heavens. We will still have a democratic process in place. We will still be free. We will still have the ability to work for a better world.

No matter what happens we should give the benefit of the doubt to whichever candidate is elected, praying that God will work in his life and the life of our nation in very significant ways. Whether it’s President McCain or President Obama …they’re inheriting a boatload of troubles. They’re going to need an active, involved citizenry. Heckling from the back row isn’t going to help.

Wednesday morning the ‘talk-shows’ will stink up the airwaves with all kind of finger-pointing and posturing. People are going to be angry, frustrated. Maybe even some of us. Some might decide that a war of words isn't going to be enough. We all worry about those who believe physical violence proves a point. Scary stuff.

But God calls us to a ‘higher road’. We don’t have to join in with the junk. We can be agents of positive response, patrons of thoughtful analysis, conveyers of hope. We can be ‘difference makers’. We have to be. Because if we don't who will?