How Can You Find Spiritual Maturity?

From time to time I have people ask me what they need to do in order to achieve spiritual maturity.  These kinds of questions always humble me, because I feel as though I haven't figured out my own spiritual journey enough to answer them well.  

But still, because I'm a pastor, the questions come, and I do my best to offer whatever wisdom I've picked up along the way.  

Lent seems to be a time of year when questions of spiritual maturity come up more often.  I think many of us think about spiritual matters more during "liminal" moments--the in-between seasons of our year.  

Many of us feel as though we are trudging through this wintry, grey, in-between journey from Epiphany to Easter with a serious degree of weariness.  We long for shortcuts to get us quickly to Resurrection.  

We don't want to engage in the work of trudging through this Lenten journey.  What we want is to experience spiritual highs, revelations that come to us like lightning and the peace that c…

Rescue Me - Week One: "Remember"

Today is the first Sunday of the season of Lent, the season that leads us to Holy Week and to Easter Sunday.  The word "Lent" is derived from the Latin word for "forty" and denotes the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Why forty?  Forty, according to some Biblical scholars is a number that is connected to trial, testing, trouble or hardship.  

In the Genesis account, God made it rain 40 days and 40 nights. Moses spent 40 years in the desert until he finally saw the burning bush.  The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty hears.  Goliath taunted the people of Israel for 40 days until David killed him.  The list goes on and on.  

Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.  There was also 40 days between Jesus resurrection and ascension.  So it seems kind of natural considering all of this emphasis on the number 40 that there would be 40 days in a season where we are called to reflect on Jesus final weeks leading up to his dea…

When "Just As I Am" Isn't Enough

Ah! happy those whose hearts can break/And peace and pardon win!/How else but through a broken heart/May Lord Christ enter in? - Oscar Wilde
This morning I scrolled through the list of students and teachers who were gunned down two days ago at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.   

Seventeen more lives to add to the over 138 students, teachers and staff who have been killed in 239 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in 2012.  

I believe that there's a time for inspirational words, and we need to speak them.  But there's also a time for transformative action. 

You see, sending our "thoughts and "prayers" can be generative and life-giving, but I think most of us settle for "thoughts and prayers" because the transformation that would lead us to action might cost us too much.  

It seems to me that those of us who claim to be Christians spend a lot of energy talking about how we want the world to change, but most of us a…

Why Give Up Anything For Lent?

I have this friend who told me once in confidence that he absolutely couldn't stand Lent.  "Why do you have to walk around all depressed and somber for forty days?" he asked me.  "We should be celebrating."  

Then he went on a diatribe about the phoniness of people who made such a big deal about giving up coffee for Lent, or social media, or chocolate.  I remember laughing nervously because I'd just decided to give up Facebook and a couple of other things for Lent. 

What I didn't articulate in that moment was the reason why I had decided to give up those things (not coffee) for Lent.  It wasn't that I was trying to act depressed or to garner attention as some holy fellow--far from it.  

The real reason was because I felt like I needed to let go of some of the stuff that was keeping me from being my best self, and was inhibiting my ability to fully follow Jesus.  

You see, I'd started to listen to the critical voices in my head---the ones that consta…

Learning To Truly Live During Lent

The Tempest, was the last of Shakespeare's plays written entirely by the Bard himself.  Toward the end of the play, the retiring magician Prospero speaks directly to audience in what is widely believed to be Shakespeare's own farewell address:  
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.  (The Tempest, 4.1) As we step into the season of Lent today, we are reminded on this Ash Wednesday that we "are dust, and to dust we shall return."  

The reminder that death is an integral part of what it means to live is a thought few of us choose to entertain willingly.  We w…

Are You Pursuing Your God-Given Dreams?

If you had unlimited resources, time, etc..... what would you do?  What would be different?  What would change, if anything?  And, more importantly, what would you pursue?  

Most of us have dreams of the kinds of people we would like to become.  We have dreams about the kind of legacy we would like to leave behind--what we would love to accomplish in life.  

And far too many of us decide that the immediate cost of pursuing our best self, our dreams, our legacy is too high to pay right now.  As a result, we become easily daunted by all of the steps that must be taken to achieve our goals.   

Author Teilhard de Chardin notes that our problems generally lie in our inability to "trust in the slow work of God."  He goes on to say: 
"We are quite naturally impatient to reach the end without delay.  We should like to skip the intermediate stages.  We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that is made by passing…

Judgmental Christians & The Way of Jesus

I've had more than a few conversations in the past several years with people who have given up on church.  The common thread in all of those conversations was the role that the judgmental attitudes of Christians played in their decisions to walk away.  

One of my friends who left church told me, "I just got so tired of having to pretend to be someone I wasn't."   

Sadly, far too many churches are not the kind of place you go when you need to bare your soul, share your scars, express your doubts, or (as in the case of my friend) simply be yourself.  

Over the course of my life in the church, I've heard so many stories from so many people who were wounded by the judgment of Christians who condemned them.  I've been on the receiving end of that kind of judgment, and it's not pleasant.  

You would like to think that your church family would be the one place where you would receive grace and unconditional love.  But, unfortunately, churches are made up of people, …