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Reflections on Tuesday, August 21st

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If you've been following along with my daily devotions for any length of time, you know by now that I often write about whatever is going on with me at the moment.  

This past year I've had more than a few occasions to reflect on grief and loss.  I've heard from many of you that those reflections were helpful in your own journey, and for that I'm grateful.  Perhaps today's reflection will be helpful, too. 

Today is my mother's birthday--the first of many that I'll celebrate without her in the world.  I've been quietly dreading this day for a while, but now that it's here, at last, I'm not sure how I feel.  

It's strange for this day to come, and for there to be no planned celebration, no family dinner, no present to buy.  Instead, I have a staff meeting today, a pastoral care team meeting, a meeting with the church Treasurer and I'll cap the day off with a church board meeting this evening.  

Mix in a handful of errands and other chores that…

The Darkness

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God [sometimes] puts out our lights to keep us safe... because we are never in more danger of stumbling than when we think we know where we are going. - Brown Taylor 

After reading a few studies that have been done on the effect that ambient light has on our sleep patterns, my wife and I have been working on making things darker in our bedroom.  

We purchased blackout curtains, and we ensure that the blinds are closed tight every night.  I've also gotten vigilant about covering up all of the little "blue" lights that blink from our cable box, Apple TV, cell phone chargers and the like. 

I got to thinking this morning about the way we too-often view darkness in negative terms when, in fact, there's so much that is generative and life-giving about it.   

What if we began to see the dark spaces in our lives a bit differently?  What if we began to see them as places where we are finally able to let go of our need for control and our reliance on our own power? 

The poet David …

One Big Story - Week 12: "Asking The Right Question"

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Did you know that the Bible is One Big Story of God’s love for people who don’t always feel like they deserve God’s love?  It's true--it's the best kind of story, to be honest.

And God has a way of always picking the wrong kinds of people to do what God needs doing.  People who think they aren't good enough, people who the rest of the world thinks aren't good enough--heck, people who really aren't good enough... that's who God seems to love to pick to write God's One Big Story.

The Bible is One Big Story filled with heroes and villains, great adventures, epic battles, love stories and astonishing tales.  It’s also the story of a “once and future” King who picked the most unlikely people to help him share the story of God’s amazing love, and how far God was willing to go to save the world.

Today we are continuing our summer sermon series, One Big Story.  And what we're going to be learning over the course of this summer is one very simple fact:  "God c…

Embracing Grief To Discover Healing

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Yesterday, as I was driving my middle son to handle a task for marching band, I was struck with a memory of my mom driving me on a similar errand when I was about his age.

I was on the basketball team at my school and all of the guys on the team were getting a particular Nike basketball shoe.  We were not very well off.  I am sure the shoes were expensive, and that we couldn't afford them, but she took me to get them anyway.  

I suddenly found myself acutely missing my mom, grieving the passage of time, stunned that my middlest boy was so grown...  

I also realized that I was angry.  I was angry that my mom was gone, angry at myself for not being a better son, angry that I was so sad...   

And then I felt guilty and ashamed at being angry.  

It's the strange milestones that cause grief to return in a flood, just when you think you've started moving beyond it.  And no one really prepares you for how angry it can make you when it does.  

I'm writing this not to elicit sympathy…

Beholding

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Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. - Henri Nouwen 
I don't like to wait.  
When I am de-planing after a flight, I am always prepared to leave--my bags are gathered, belongings secured and I'm poised to move.  
Alas, not everyone has the same philosophy about getting off an airplane that I do.  
I've discovered that the majority of people de-planing on the flights I've taken seem to act as though they've never done it before.  They arise from their seats bewildered, confused and lacking the memory of where they left their luggage (most likely directly above their heads).  
It's maddening.  
My wife tells me that I should work on being less impatient.  I know she's right.  It's justs that I can't stand how long it takes to learn patience!  I'm only half joking about that last bit.  
I recently read that one way to look at the story of Adam and Eve was through the lens of their…

Practice Makes Perfect

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I made the decision about four months ago to head back to the gym after taking almost an entire year off from engaging in a serious exercise regimen.   

The first couple of months back was pretty brutal.  I was sore all of the time, hurting in places I didn't know I could hurt.  I had to drag myself to the gym to meet my trainer, who had no sympathy for me. 

But slowly, over the last couple of months, things have gotten a bit easier.  

I can now run on the treadmill for longer periods of time, row for farther distances on the rowing machine.  I can lift heavier weights for more repetitions.  And all because I have been practicing--working hard to get better, faster, stronger.  

This morning, I read the following quote from Richard Rohr that captured my attention:  
It is strange that we have come to understand the importance of practice in sports, in most therapies, in any successful business, and in any creative endeavor, but for some reason, most of us do not see the need for it in t…

Broken Jars

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But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  - 2 Corinthians 4:7

The above verse from Paul's nearly two-thousand-year-old letter to the church at Corinth has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  

Until recently, I assumed that Paul was merely pointing out the finite and transient nature of human beings--addressing our frailty and potential for brokenness.  

But I've come to believe that when he used the words "jars of clay," Paul may have also been referring to the ways in which we convey our understanding of God.  

Paul seemed to know intuitively that we would be tempted to worship our beliefs about God rather than simply worshipping Godself.  Which is why he said that we hold the treasure of God's great story of love, grace, redemption, and resurrection in "jars of clay."

Sometimes it feels like there are far too many of us Christians these days, who act as though we have it all figured out. …