Darkness Exists To Make Light Truly Count

In a couple of months, it will be two years since my mom passed away.  There are days when it seems like it was yesterday, but most of the time it feels as though she left us a long time ago.  

A lot of things have changed since she died.  My kids have grown.  We added a daughter-in-law to the mix.  Holidays have come and gone with new rhythms and traditions.  Our family was forced to adjust to the blank space that was created when she was no longer with us.  

I was feeling sad about it all the other day, and I recalled a song that had been important to me when I was reeling with grief.  

The song by Ryan O'Neal was written to a young man who had just lost his mother, and the singer is trying to help him find meaning in it all.  Here are the lyrics that I remember being so impactful: 
Maybe your light is the seed
And the darkness the dirt
In spite of the uneven odds
Beauty lifts from the earth
From the earth
You're much too young now
So I write these words down,
"Darkness exists to …

Made New

Almost every day of my life, I do things that make me dissatisfied in myself.  I yell at my kids.  I get impatient when I am driving around slow drivers, when I'm waiting in line at Chipotle, when I can't do all of the things I need to in a day...  the list is pretty long.  

If we are being honest, most of us struggle to be the people we know that we should be. 

And what we tend to hear most of the time from other Christians is that we can get it all together, we can overcome our feelings of inadequacy by reading that next Christian self-help book about 13 ways to be a better parent/wife/husband/child/church member/American... or going to church more often, being more religious, trying harder, keeping more rules...  

But as Craig Groeschel writes: Religious behavior can make you nice, but it won't make you new. 

As Christians, we say we believe that following Jesus makes you new.  You can be a new creation. Like the Apostle Paul said, "the old has gone, the new has come.&…

Does God Hear You?

Our words are feathers that fly on our breath. Let them go in a holy direction. - Jeanne Lohmann

Recently, my littlest boy Jacob was essentially an only child for an entire week.  His oldest brother moved to Chicago, and my middle son was on a youth trip.  

I've noticed that when his brothers aren't around, Jacob wants to talk more and share more about what he's thinking.  This translates into some fairly diverse conversations about things that happened at his day camp, a new video game he loves to play, Minecraft and much more. 

I've also noticed a bit of a pattern with him.  Jacob will chatter away for a while, and then will pause to make sure that I'm listening.  I completely understand why he does it.  He wants to know that I care about what he cares about to some extent, but deeper still he wants to know that I care about him.

We all have the same longings when it comes to our conversations with others.  We want to be heard when we're speaking our truths, reve…

Tingling Ears

I think over the course of my lifetime I've read the story of the call of Samuel the prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures at least two dozen times or more, but I saw something new when I read it today.  

As a young child, Samuel had a nighttime vision/encounter with God where God spoke to him and gave him a prophecy to relate to the high priest.  The translation of that prophecy that I read today goes something like this: 
And the Lord said to Samuel:  "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle."  - I Samuel 3:11God shares with Samuel that what God is about to do will be spoken of, and the power of those descriptions of God's actions will tingle the ears of those who hear it.  
God's prophecy that Samuel delivered was against the abuses and excesses of the high priest Eli, and his family.  They had begun to use their position, influence, and power to further their own agendas, not God's, and there was g…

God Don't Make No Junk

Today's devo is from the archives--I've been thinking again about the idea of Original Blessing and this one spoke to me again when I read it.  Hope it speaks to you, too.  

In the church communities of my youth, we were taught that people were inherently awful.  You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not--not by a long shot. 

I have a distinct memory of some pastor or another preaching on how people are just born bad, and then he used the analogy of how deceitful and manipulative infants could be when they wanted something... like food... or their diaper changed. 

I know it's hard to believe but it's that kind of teaching that dominated Christian culture for centuries.  

And when the message of your inherent awfulness is one that has been drummed into you by people and institutions you trust, it's really hard to shake the feeling that you aren't all you're cracked up to be.  

No wonder there are so many Christians who are angry, argumentative... and …

Power Up - Week Nine: Consider it Joy

This week we are going to be concluding our summer sermon series entitled "Empowered."  We've been studying how the Holy Spirit of God empowers us to be the people that God longs for us to be.

What we didn't tell you---is that we've been outlining what is commonly known as the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5.  The nine ways that the Spirit works to help us follow Jesus more fully, and live into our most authentic selves.

And today we are going to be talking about how the Spirit empowers us to experience joy no matter what.

We're going to do a little group exercise...

Think of the worst season of your life.  When you went through the most incredibly difficult, challenging trials you've ever experienced...

Maybe you are going through it right now... 

So if you could sum up that time in one word... what would it be?  Think carefully about it.  You've only got one word.  And listen, if that word is not repeatable in public, then just keep that to …

The Theology of Free Throws

There was a time--long ago, and far away--when I played on my high school's basketball team.  This was back in the day when players wore really short shorts and really high tube socks.  It was magical. 

As part of my quest to be a better basketball player, I used to practice free throws religiously and got pretty good at them... when there was nothing at stake.

During a game situation, however, when there was more on the line.. it became much more difficult to make them. 

I have a distinct memory of standing at the free-throw line after being fouled at the end of a close playoff game.  It was the loneliest feeling in the world.  The goal seemed like it was a mile away. 

And everyone in the whole gymnasium was watching, waiting for me to shoot. 

The great Chinese sage Tranxu once said:
"When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all the skills... When he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind... His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him." So much of the w…