The Journey of A Thousand Miles...

There's this little plaque that I have had for a number of years and it's made it's way with me to all of the various offices I've occupied.  

Engraved on the front is an oft-used quote from Lao-Tzu that goes like this:  

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
I remember when I bought that plaque.  It was from one of those stores where you buy plaques for your house, and fake plants, mirrors and bowls to put potpourri in.  

But that little plaque spoke to me when I bought it because I felt at the time like I was at the beginning of a journey--early on in my career as a pastor.  But mostly I wanted it because I longed so desperately to internalize the truth of it.  

I have taken some notable first steps over the years---steps toward knowledge, experience, faith and trust.  I've stepped away from comfort more than once.  I've stepped forward when it didn't always make sense to do it. 

I  would like to say that every time I was about …

When The End Feels Like The Beginning

Throughout my career as a pastor I've had more than one occasion when I've had people who sought my counsel when it came to struggles they were having with grief, difficult decisions, relationship issues, addiction, bitterness, anger, abuse and more.

There is one thing that people seem to want to know more than anything else, and it comes in the form of an often unspoken question that hovers like a shroud over them:  "Why does it take so long?"

Why does it take so long to work out my grief?
Why does it take so long to get over that betrayal?
Why does it take so long to feel alive again after abuse?
Why does it take so long to be well after being addicted?

 I never have really good answers when it comes to that kind of thing.  "Everyone is different," I'll tell them.  "You have to do this at your pace," I'll say. 

Or I might share that even though it might feel like a long time to them... they are actually making progress. 

It's easy to say thi…

God Is Closer Than You Think

Yesterday I preached a sermon that ended up being deeply personal. 

It didn't start off that way. 

I  was preaching on the topic of how we need to dismantle the boxes we create to try and fit God into, and was focused on the box we tend to label, "The Absent God."  

In other words, I was taking on the big question that so many of ask, "Where is God when it hurts?"  My point was that God is closer than we think--that God is with us in our brokenness, sorrow and even with us when we feel the loss of God. 

You can watch the sermon here, if you want.  Just click these words.  

And I felt pretty good about the sermon.  I even had a nice illustration that was about someone else's experience with the presence of God in their life.  

But when I sat in my office yesterday morning going over the sermon, I knew that I  needed to tell my own story.  So, after wrestling with it for a bit, I decided to share an experience I had with God's presence on the day my mother died…

I Want To Believe But... Week Three

Today we are going to continue our sermon series for the month of October entitled, "I Want To Believe, But..." 

This series addresses the fact that many of us struggle with our images of God, and some of us struggle so much that we find that it's hard to believe in God altogether.  

Some of us may have said:  "I want to believe, but..."

I  can't believe in a demanding God.
I  can't believe in an angry, joyless God.
I  can't believe in an absent God.
I  can't believe in a heartless God.

My hope is that as a result of this series, we'll be able to discover together new ways to think about God that are free from these kinds of boxes. 

Let me ask you a question...  

Have you ever wondered where God was when it hurt?  

Maybe you experienced an incredible tragedy in your life, and you asked that question...  Where are you, God?  

Maybe you suffered a loss... Or you endured years of abuse... Or you lost your job... 

Or maybe the suffering you experienced was …

Learning What It Means To Be The Church

Is it safe to just be who we are? - Lana del Rey

I was talking with a friend of mine and we both were bemoaning the fact that our society and culture is so divided and filled with tension. 

Our conversation quickly turned to the way that the Church sadly reflects that same tension through the many Christians who are often at the forefront of cultural divisions, adding to the tensions, rather than easing them.

No matter what side we tend to land on the cultural issues that seem to divide us, Christians of all stripes often find themselves wondering about one another, "You can't really be on my team can you?" 

The other day I found a humorous illustration in one of my daily readings.  I'll recreate it with my own little twist here:
Little girl: Are you a Presbyterian?
Little boy: No, we belong to another abomination.
The Apostle Paul once posed a very pointed and poignant question of one of the churches he was trying to help through a particularly difficult rift.  "Is Ch…

We All Long To Be More

Every one of us---no matter what else seeks to divide us--are joined by a singular and piercing desire:  We long to be more than we are.  

C.S. Lewis once wrote:  
We seek an enlargement of our being.  We want to be more than ourselves. How we go about pursuing that desire, and the varying degrees that we are driven by it informs the shape of our lives.  It also helps direct the paths we take on our life's journeys, the directions we are drawn to go and the destinations we find along the way.  

And we also discover along the way that in order to be more, we have to let some of ourselves go, we have to surrender selfish dreams, give up destructive behavior and thinking, and make room in our souls for what is good, beautiful and true.  

For some of us, the realization of what we must give up in order to live into our true humanity is too terrible to bear, and so we find ways to excuse our staying right where we are.  

In his book Awareness, Anthony de Mello wrote about this pointedly: 

I Am Smart. I Am Blessed. I Can Do Anything.

There is a video that is making the rounds on the internet that has already amassed millions of views on various social media platforms and news websites... and it's not political, scandalous, racy or filled with outrage.  

It's a three year old little boy from New York named Ayaan, who, while on his on way to preschool, motivates himself with a unique and beautiful affirmation.  

On the video you can hear Ayaan say over and over again, "I am smart. I  am blessed. I  can do anything."  

Check it out in the player below.  If you can't see the video playing in the player, there is a link below that to a website where you can watch it.

Come on!  How unbelievably sweet is that?  And man did that hit me in the feels when I saw it, how about you?  Hey, I'm not crying--you're crying!  

And how much do you want to hug the boy's mom who is filming the video?  Her…