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Saying No To Good Things

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Good is the enemy of great... Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.- Jim Collins 

There is a moment in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is tempted by the Accuser (the literal translation of the word Satan) to do good things, rather than great things. He's tempted to:  turn stone into breadrule the worldperform impressive miracles The Accuser's temptations are strong.  In one fell swoop, Jesus could solve the problem of hunger in the world, blow everyone away with how powerful he is (which would remove all doubts about him), and then basically take over the world and fix all the political, economic and social ills of the day.  
Instead, Jesus refuses to do what seems good in favor of what is great.  He pushes back against the temptation to affect one particular moment in history, in order to fulfill his calling to change all of history and to bring redemption to all of Creation.  
In his engaging and thought-provoking bo…

One Big Story - Week 7: "Fire Fall"

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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 …

You Can See A Lot By Looking

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You can see a lot by looking. - Yogi Berra 

Almost all of the conflict in our lives comes to us when we live into the lie that we deserve to have our own way.  That the difficult people in our lives wouldn't be difficult if they were just able to see the world as we see it.    

Along those same lines, our struggle for peace in the middle of trials and tribulations is often grounded in our perceived need for things to work out in our favor... every time.  

The late singer/songwriter Rich Mullins captured this struggle in his song, "Hold Me Jesus": 

Surrender don't come natural to me. 
I'd rather fight you for something 
I don't really want
Than to take what you give that I need. 

This morning I read this convicting and powerful quote from Richard Rohr, who writes:   "It is our resistance to things as they are that causes most of our unhappiness." 

Make no mistake, Rohr isn't advocating a kind of helpless resignation--far from it.  

What he's inferring …

Carpe Deum

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Cut doors and windows 
to make a room.
Where the room isn't, 
there's room for you.  - Lao Tzu

When I read the above passage from Lao Tzu's short poem "The uses of not," it stood out for me in a way that I couldn't quite describe at the moment, and it left me with the feeling that I was supposed to know something because of it. 

To be honest, the last line was what grabbed me at first:  "Where the room isn't/there's room for you."  There was something true and beautiful about that line that spoke to me deeply.  The author seems to be saying, "In the empty spaces... in the margins... there is room for you there." 

But it was the first line of that passage that eventually gave me some clarity as to it all resonated with me so strongly:  "Cut doors and windows to make a room." 

That powerful line prompted me to ask myself: 
"How often do I wall myself off from the world around me... from people who I encounter?  How often d…

It's Been Quite A Year

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Winning does not tempt that man.  This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, 
by greater and greater beings. - Rainer Maria Rilke

A friend recently shared with me that she couldn't wait until a certain day in September to arrive because she had marked that day as the beginning of many of the trials and tribulations she and her family had faced over the last year.  

To reach that date, she believed, would mean that a year of hard things had come to an end, and she could begin looking forward to a new year with new possibilities. 

That made perfect sense to me.  I have my own milestone date in mind as well.  

I was listening to a song by singer/songwriter Ryan O'Neal the other day, and these lyrics touched me deeply:  
God, it has been quite a year-
I've lived a little bit and I've died a little more.
I know that I've asked it before,
But please let the scale tip here in my favor.
I always feel a bit guilty praying a prayer like that, considering all of the incredibl…

Listen

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When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the notion that there was a time when God actually had straight up conversations with people and wondered why God no longer did that kind of thing.  
However, when I asked my Sunday school teachers about this, I was simply told, "That's the way it was in the Bible, not today."  I get the feeling a lot of people were taught or told the same thing.  
But what if it wasn't?  What if the way the patriarchs and the kings and the prophets who heard a "word from the Lord," wasn't through the audible voice of God?  
What if those words came to them the way they seem to come to us--through moments of revelation, deep conviction, and powerful feelings?  
What if the words from the Lord came to them when they were reading Scripture, or when they were lost in prayer and praise?  Or through the words of a trusted advisor or friend?  
Listen, for those of you who might be troubled by what I just asked, I'm not saying that God di…

Nevertheless, God.

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"I dance for the joy of surviving on the edge of the road." - Stanley Kunitz

The story of the boys' soccer team trapped in a flooded cave system in Thailand has dominated the top of every news story this week. 

The twelve boys and their coach have been trapped since June 23.  Eight of the twelve boys have been extricated from the cave as of this morning, but continued rains and difficult conditions are threatening the rescue operation. 

Like most of the millions of people who are following this story, I keep waiting for the news to finally come that they have all been rescued and that the nightmare for the waiting parents and families will finally come to an end. 

We all want this story to end well.  We long for happy endings.  We want to believe that if it were our loved ones trapped in those caves that there would be a way out for them.  And so we hold out hope. 

Not all of our stories end well, though.  Sometimes the flood waters rising around us, are too overwhelming, and…