Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bionic Man

In December I wrote a an entry on this blog called "Predisposed towards sudden death..." Here's an update.

I have a rogue gene in my body. It could cause my heart to miss a beat for too long a period of time. Good chance I'd die. As my doc says ..."you're predisposed to sudden death." My brother has it. We think my sister might have died because of it. All my kids need to be tested.

What I have is called 'long qt syndrome'. They don't know much about it because it's hard to study. You don't know you have it. So you can't sign up to be part of a control group. You find out you have only after you've died, come close to dying or someone close to you dies or comes face to face with death.

I'm fortunate. I know I have it. Now I have to make a choice. Do I put a defibrillator in my chest or not? That device would restart my heart if that rogue gene shorts out my internal electrical curcuits.

The choice is pretty clear actually. I'll start the process of going bionic.

There's soemthing very sobering about all this. It's not terrifying. It just jars your sensibilities.

It's funny. I cling to life even though I know this isn't my final destination. Jesus said he has a place all prepared for me. That's pretty cool. I believe it. And yet, I cling to life.

You know why I'm clinging to living? For sure, I want to spend a whole lot more time with my wife and kids and friends. But there's something else. I don't think I'm done yet. I mean, it's like deep inside me, I know there's something else I'm supposed to do before I leave planet earth. There's some adventure I'm still destined to take. Some 'assignment' left to fulfill.

What's so exciting about all this is that I think that what's left for me is going to be something right in my sweet spot. I mean, I think it's something that's going to be really, really interesting ...something matching my gifting and passions and intersecting with some deep need in our culture.

In other words, I can choose to grab on to this 'gift' of becoming slightly bionic and choose to really live. Or not.

Maybe that's the crucial question for all of us. Live or not live? Surprisingly, a whole lot of people I know choose to 'not live'. Know anyone who whines, doesn't tap into their God-given passion, who exists only for pleasure, who doesn't give a rip about others, someone who's sloppy, apathetic and lost zest for anything good and noble? They're not living. Not really. They wander through life, die, and are soon forgotten. No legacy. No real footprint left on planet earth.

Could that be you?

I've been given a gift. I've been confronted with the fact that I won't live on this earth forever. I could die tomorrow. So could you. But the odds are that I'll beat you. So, how will I live today? What needs to be put into motion so that I don't live with any more regrets? Maybe it's ego, hopefully it's more noble than that. but I want to leave a legacy. I've often said I want my funeral to filled iwth people crying their eyes out. More importantly, I want to be welcomed into heaven with Jesus looking deep into my eyes and saying "Well done, Mike. Welcome home".

So, sometime in the not too distant future I'll get fitted with a defib device in my chest. It will be a pain going through security at the airport but it could prolong my life. That's a gift. What will I do with that gift?

Sometimes I think I'm a slow learner. That's why God sometimes needs to get my attention in some pretty abrupt ways. But He does have my attention. I'm not going to waste this opportunity.

So, God is always about the business of getting our attention. Maybe he's even using these words to speak to you. So, what are you going to do? Live. Or not.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's right

Our new President champions hope in what for many looks like a hopeless time. He stresses individual contributions that advance the common good because he knows government can only do so much. I believe in the concept of hope and I've been thinking a lot about what our role as Christians should be in the present economic and cultural milieu.

Many learned people have said that even the smallest contribution of one well-meaning person can make a difference. One small pebble thrown into a pool creates larger and larger circles of energy. Jesus honored the woman who gave the tiniest bit of money because her heart was good, her action generous. Her giving of the mite caught the attention of the Lord of the Universe.

Barak Obama was elected President because of the selfless acts of thousands of men and women who paved the way for him. Visit the web sites that champion the work of civil rights workers and you'll understand how a multitude of small acts can create a revolution.

At a time such as this we all need to do what we can with a good heart and a generous spirit. What might that look like?

What if we all gave a bit more to worthy causes or started to give something to one? Even if it meant adjusting our personal standard of living.

What if we wrote to companies we hold stock in and asked them not to worry about hitting insane profit projections but instead focus on being just, loyal and honorable?

What if we owned a company and decided to make less and hire one more? or two? or three?

What if we went to management and told them we'd be willing to make less if it meant someone else could keep a job?

What if we had a two bedroom family living in a five bedroom home and decided to rent a couple of rooms out to those who've hit hard times?

What if we owned a bank and decided to renegotiate some loans?

What if we decided to tithe our money, our time, and our talents?

What if we gathered friends together and chose to live more intentionally in community?

What if we intentionally decided to downsize and with our savings invest in those who have real need?

What if????

Now is the time. It really is. This could be the best time to practice our faith, honor God, and to model kingdom living. Scratch 'could be'. This is the time.

What will we decide to do?

Listen carefully. There are echoes all around us of the prophets calling us to justice and righteousness and sacrifice. There is a clarion call to be God's people... to light a torch, to carry a burden, to meet a need. Little acts of courage and sacrifice can make a difference. What will you do?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Keri Wyatt Kent is really a good author. She understands what it means to have 'real faith' and a 'real life'. She's a church leader, wife, soccer mom,writer, cook, chauffeur, water ski enthusiast, seminar leader, retreat leader, etc.. You get the picture. Keri writes from a real life perspective. That's refreshing.

Keri asked me if I'd feature her recent book Rest:Living in Sabbath Simplicity on my blog. That was an easy 'yes'. This is good stuff especially for those of us who need some practical help in slowing down and getting in on God's best for our lives.

Here's a couple of questions and Keri's answers about the value of Sabbath keeping.

1. How does practicing the Sabbath in today’s busy society differ from the ancient concept of the Sabbath? Why is it so different? Why is it still important?

The ancient Jewish Sabbath had very strict boundaries, but within those boundaries, there was freedom and relationship. The Torah and traditions prohibited what was known as melachah, work that is creative or exercises dominion over your environment. There were 39 specific tasks, such as reaping, lighting a fire, etc., that correlated to the 39 tasks needed to build the temple.

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, gave us a new way of following the ancient law. Jesus reminded us that the law was originally meant to invite us into relationship with God. While the Bible makes it clear that we are saved by grace, and not by the law, God’s law still remains a great way to live—as long as we don’t get legalistic or think keeping certain rules will save us.

It’s important for many reasons, which I cover in the book. But here’s just one key reason: it allows us to experience the unconditional love of God in a physical, tangible way. It’s one thing to say he loves us even when we are not accomplishing or performing. But if we never actually stop performing, how can we experience that unconditional love? It allows us to say yes, with our bodies and our schedules, to Jesus invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Sabbath is not so much something you “do” as a gift you receive.

2. You say the Sabbath made you learn flexibility. In what ways? How does Sabbath change throughout different seasons of our lives?

Jesus taught a whole new way of Sabbath, and I devote the entire first chapter of the book to just that. He showed us that Sabbath was for healing, reconciliation, valuing relationships over rules. But like any spiritual practice, we need to let God lead us, to be teachable. That requires flexibility. And it won’t always go perfectly. Again, we have to be willing to recognize that Sabbath Simplicity is a journey, and we’re learning as we go. Just as we learn other spiritual practices, like prayer or Bible study. We don’t have them completely figured out or perfected, but we keep doing them, and keep asking God to help us to do them better.

You also have to adapt your practice to the season of your life. I love that God gives a reason with the Sabbath command. Take a day off, he says, because you were slaves in Egypt. Slaves cannot take a day off, but free people can. Sabbath is a day to celebrate freedom, and to perhaps reflect on the gift of freedom, and to empathize a bit with those who are not free.

In certain seasons, though, we may feel like a slave—to our young children, our career, our needy friends, or aging parents. When I was in that season, it was hard. Ask for help. While you may, for example, still have to change diapers or feed your kids, you can refrain from other things. Don’t run errands on Sunday. It’s a nightmare with little kids in tow anyway. Do it another day, and save Sunday for just relaxing with your family. I have very specific suggestions on how to do this in my book.

I urge you to check this book out. Great message. Down to earth. Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity provides practical ways to slow down and simplify. It offers the gift of Sabbath, as a lifestyle and a spiritual practice. If you’d like to be included in a drawing for a free copy of Rest, leave a comment or question below. If you leave a question, Keri will be glad to try to answer it. We’ll select a winner next Wednesday, January 21st.

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity is available at bookstores everywhere, and on-line.

Here's a link to

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For more information about Keri Wyatt Kent, visit her website at or

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bad Attitude

Woke up yesterday. Snowing again. The weather reports said
‘snow all day’. Ugh.

I couldn’t stay in bed. We had a meeting at the church. It wasn’t something I was particularly excited about going to. I felt it was an ‘add on’ at a time when my calendar was already filled. I was going out of loyalty to support another staff member who I really believed in and to the people I talked into attending.

The roads were slick. My self-talk was bad. My thinkin’ was stinkin’. Mumbling all the way to church I knew, just knew, that one of two things were going to happen. 1. When I got there the parking lot would be empty. All the sane people weren’t going to risk life and limb. 2. There’s be a big note on the door saying ‘Cancelled’.

Funny thing. I turned into the parking lot. It was quite full. No cancellation. Oh, there was lots of weather related mumbling but people were there and were engaged.

Bad attitude turned in the direction of an attitude adjustment. A badly needed adjustment.

My circumstances were dictating my attitude. My circumstances stood in the way of some ‘God things’ happening in my life. My ‘self talk’ was heading towards a predictable outcome until God opened my eyes, adjusted my attitude, and redefined reality.

It was a good morning. I had some good interactions with people. Our presenter, Mindy Caliguire, spoke about Soul Care and I had an ‘aha’ moment or two. I walked away feeling ‘blessed’.

So often in my life I let my circumstances and the thinking that envelops it to get in the way of something good. How many times have I rolled over, dug myself a deep attitude rut, and stayed away from what ultimately turns out to be an appointment with God? More than I count.

Sometimes you just got to gut it up, face the less than favorable circumstances, and do what you said you were going to do. We all know that. I just need constant reminders. And as we turn towards loyalty, responsibility, agreements, and ‘have to’s’ God can use even the most grudging turn to the ‘good’ to do something necessary in our lives.

I’m glad I got out of bed and did what I promised to do. Even though I was sowing seeds of a bad attitude God didn’t let those seeds take root. Instead, he chuckled and showed me that despite my stinkin’ thinkin’ He’s quite capable of still doing something good in my life.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Authoritative source???

Just had an interesting exchange with a reader of my blog. Got me thinking.
Here's something to consider.

The other day I was with a small group of guys. We're reading a book called 'The Shack'. It's an interesting read. Helpful, I think. It's easy to get caught up into the story. You find yourself saying, "Well, according to the Shack ...". In one easy to say phrase we take a piece of fiction and elevate it to an authoritative place.

Sometimes I get e-mails from people. In it, they quote the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. They hold these documents very close and very dear. So do I. However, they're not my ultimate authoritative source.

I've had people quote lyrics from songs, get misty eyed, and tell me that they're living their life by the truth of those words. Oops.

Have you ever had someone say ...??

According to C.S. Lewis ...

John Piper said....

I was listening to Christian radio and Tony Evans...

Went to conference and I heard Andy Stanley ..

Anne Graham Lotz told us ...

I heard Margaret Feinberg say ...

Erwin McManus's take is...

The latest Nooma raises this point ...

I listened to a conversation on Midday Connection (I know, I know …a shameless plug for my wife’s show)

Charles Colson says…

All of the above have influenced me and my guess will continue to influence me in some important ways. And I do use the 'arguments and insights' of thoughtful people. But I don't want thoughtful people to do all my thinking for me. I want them to inform me, to help me, to raise great questions, to offer interesting interpretations and to inspire me when I am down. But I don't want them to become more than they would ever want to be. Bottom line is that I have to do some of the heavy lifting myself.

So, what's your authoritative source? The guiding light by which you lead your life? A lot of my friends say it's the Bible. Yet, they don't know it really well, if at all. In fact, when push comes to shove they really have a spiritual guru who interprets truth for them. That guru is a famous author, preacher, or commentator. They live life according that person's interpretation of scripture.

Truth is we do a lot of hitchhiking off of other people's ideas. We let others do the work for us. And when push comes to shove we take a book like 'The Shack' and elevate it to a higher plane than we should, we confuse being a good American with being a Christ follower, and we only listen to people who we agree with. And then we quite growing and learning.

Maybe we should take a break from letting others think for us. For sure, keep reading, keep listening ...but do it with some discernment. Read 'The Shack' but have your Bible open as you read it, develop a healthy skepticism and don't be afraid to ask discernment questions no matter who you’re listening to. Even the best and most thoughtful speaker can be wrong, have blind spots or be deeply opinionated about something that really doesn't matter.

We really have to be careful. Where's the line between being a patriot and being a follower of Christ? Does an emotional lyric in a song contain any kind of guiding truth and if it does where's the soil that allowed it to grow? Where does my political opinion end and God's guidance and truth take over? What does it say about me if I only listen to certain interpretations of important issues? How important is it for me to read Scripture through something more than just an American middle-class value system?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Stuck left and right.

So, we went to a wedding. Pretty nifty wedding too. Lovely couple. Great service. Solid families behind them

The wedding was deep in the hinterlands of Michigan. Conservative church. Lots of salt of the earth types of people. Some home schoolers. Very nice people. Some of the literature I saw in the rack made me wince though.

It got me thinking about the various type of Christian I know.

I know some really, really, really conservative folks.
I know some untra-liberal folks.
I know some moderates.

I know people who think they're liberals but they're really not. They just try to fit in. Peer pressure is alive and well.

Most conservatives I know really are disciples of Rush Limbaugh more than followers of Jesus. At least they know more about Rush.

I know folks who have closed their mind to anything contrary to what they already know. Can't figure out who's most stubborn about that. Is it the really conservative or the really liberal?

Plenty of people who call themselves believers couldn't articulate a defense of their faith if needed. There's a hugh 'knowledge gap' out there.

Many I know are defending their faith all the time even when they aren't being attacked. But their enemies aren't anybody they have ever personally encountered. They just believe what others tell them. So, to their way of thinking there is an enemy of Christianity behind every corner.

Others don't buy into the 'friend and enemy' type of thing. They just want everyone to 'just get along'.

Some are almost universalists believing that because of God's love everyone is getting into heaven.
Others believe that unless you have a real specific time and place where you met Christ the door of salvation is closed to them.

Most of the really conservative vote Republican. The Jesus they serve looks an awful lot like Ronald Reagan.

Most of the more liberal types vote Democrat. The Jesus they serve looks and acts a lot like (pick one) a. Barak Obama b. Mother Theresa c. Jim Wallis.

I know a whole lot of folks are believers who believe the gospel is incomplete without social justice.

Others think social justice is an add-on to the Gospel. It's really suspect if you think doing socially good stuff buys you brownie points with God and somehow competes with grace.

I know believers who are egalitarians (relates to biblical roles of men and women). Others are complementarians. (Most people don't care much about this whole thing but in some circles it is a litmus test for orthodoxy)

Some Christians I know speak in tongues. Others believe that 'tongues' is a thing of the way distant past.

Some dunk. Others sprinkle.

So, do you know any of those types? Sure you do. You're probably one of them.

Here's what sometimes gets crazy. Sometimes I don't like being around either group. The really conservative seems to get mad if I use my brain. The really liberal seem to get mad if I actually believe in something or someone. Sometimes, and this is to my detriment, I do what I can to fit in. I lean to the left when it's helpful. I lean to the right when needed. I think to myself, I don't want to say too much because then it's going to get ugly. Therein lies my problem.

I need to speak up. The really conservative need to hear an articulate 'other voice'. So do the really liberal. Those who claim to 'believe' but just come to 'sit and soak' need a fire lit under them. Those who don't know how to 'sit and soak' and are always doing need to learn how to 'be'. Anyone who equates Christ with either political party should have their head examined. But me ...I need to speak up, to use my voice, to exercise my influence. Maybe you do too.

You see, there's something in Scripture about the unity of the body of Christ. I don't think that means we walk in lock-step like Stepford wives. But there is something about us sharpening each other. I really liked the conservative folks I met at the wedding. I just don't agree with them on everything. But I do admire a whole lot about how they live. I'd love to speak into their lives and have them speak into mine. That can't happen unless I take the risk of interacting. Sometimes I choose a lazy path, keeping to myself. I lose. They lose. There is never going to be much unity until we learn to talk to each other. That won't happen until someone or a whole bunch of someone's take some risks and start talking.

Maybe I'm supposed to be that someone. My hunch is that you are too.