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Showing posts from May, 2018

God of Second Chances - Pt. 2

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When I was in my early twenties, I was driving back to my apartment very late after hanging out with my friends to the wee hours.  My car broke down in the middle of nowhere, but luckily not too far from a gas station and a pay phone.  

I was not living my life very well then, to be honest.  I drank too much, partied too much, smoked too much and generally did too much of every other bad thing you could think of--all of which made my poor parents worry.  

For about a half an hour I tried everything I could think of to get the car moving again but to no avail.  I had one quarter in my car, which I found underneath the floor mat.  That's all the money I had on me, which meant that I had one phone call to make. 

So I called my dad.  

That was a hard call to make because my dad and I didn't get along very much at all at that point in our life.  We disagreed on just about everything--particularly on matters of faith.  

When I was about fifteen years old, I no longer wanted to be a Chris…

God of Second Chances - Pt.1

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I graduated from high school in 1986, and finally received my Bachelor's degree in 2000.  I am fond of saying that I was on the "fourteen-year college plan."  

For the first few years of those fourteen years of slogging through college, I wasn't all that serious about it,  but I finally got myself together and spent the last two years doing everything I could to keep a 4.0 average.  

My hope was that I would be able to overcome the sins of my youth and somehow get a scholarship to go on to post-graduate studies.  

In the middle of all of my efforts, I took a test in an upper level British Literature class and when the professor returned it, I realized I'd left an entire page of the test blank. He'd written a note at the top: "See me."  

After the class, I dragged myself to meet with him, and explain I'd just plain old made a mistake.  He looked at me for a bit and then took my paper.  He wrote, "97 - A" at the top.  Then he said, "Thi…

Maybe You've Done Enough

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I have a confession I'd like to make in today's Daily Devo: I have a hard time asking for help.  

At some point in my life I fully embraced the old adage that "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."  

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time studying the Enneagram--a system of understanding the human psyche that can be traced back to the 4th century.  

I'm a "3" in the Enneagram, which means that my resistance to asking for help is pretty high.  

The truth is, in the case of Enneagram "3s" that old adage should be "If you want something done the way that you want it done, you will most likely do it yourself, especially if you don't want to appear like you're not capable."

When it comes to matters of faith, however, what is true for the "3" is also true for so many of us.  
We have been told that in order to be a Jesus-follower we need to "get right with God," first.   Or we come to …

Memorial

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When I was a kid my family would often travel on Memorial Day to the small community of Seibert, Colorado where my dad grew up. In a small cemetery on the outskirts of town, we would visit the graves of my dad's grandparents, and those of close friends and relatives.  

I remember walking among the graves, reading the stones, and marveling at the small American flags that were placed by the those who had served in the military.  

When my grandfather died when I was ten, those trips took on new meaning for all of us.  My grandmother would refresh the flowers on his grave, and we would all stand quietly as she did--each of us thinking our own thoughts, remembering him in our own way.  

Years later, I officiated at my grandmother's funeral and would visit that cemetery for the first time as an adult.  I recall recognizing gravestones I had gazed at as a child, and for a moment it felt timeless, albeit the fresh dirt and clay from my grandmother's grave told a different story.  

To…

Trinity Sunday: 3 - It's A Magic Number

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Today is Trinity Sunday--the day when Christians all over the world celebrate the tri-unity of God.  

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is easily one of the most mysterious, and least understood Christian doctrines.  The pat Christian-y answer to someone who doesn't understand the Trinity is simply, "God is three-in-one... One God, three persons." 

Sometimes people try to explain how God is three-in-one by using water as an illustration.  "Water," they say "can be ice, vapor or liquid... but it's still water."

Or they'll show an egg and explain that there's a shell, a white and the yellow center, but the thing is still an egg.  For the life of me, I don't know how that one works, exactly. But still, it's still widely used.

The fact of the matter is that the doctrine of the Trinity is hard to understand and even harder to describe.  None of our feeble words seem to really do it justice.  

Father... Son... Spirit....  this is the way …

Be Still and Know

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"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10
I like to keep moving--if not physically, then mentally.  It's actual work to shut down my thoughts and my desires to do more, read more, learn more, accomplish more.  

I also tend to overbook my calendar--partly because I have a hard time saying "No" to things, and partly because I want to believe I always have the bandwidth to do whatever needs doing. 

And I can usually pull it off--whatever "it" is.  Even if it crowds my schedule, leaving me with razor-thin margin and not a lot of peace, I'll find a way to make it happen.  

But being still... that's a skill I have not developed all that well.  

Maybe you resonate with what I'm saying.  Perhaps you feel like your margins are thin, and you're finding yourself attempting the impossible each and every day as you try to keep all of your plates spinning.  

It could be that even though you don't believe that you have the bandwidth to figure it…

Relationships Require Effort

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I don't do a lot of marriage counseling in my pastoral ministry--mostly by choice.  

I'll happily work with couples on spiritual matters and offer what guidance I can when they're in need of help, but I will almost always refer them to a professional. 
You see, even though I've got two advanced "divinity" degrees, twenty years of pastoral experience, countless hours of training, continuing education and personal reading and development in pastoral counseling... I am not ashamed to admit that I am not a trained counselor. 
But, I have learned some things along the way--both in my life as a pastor and in my own nearly 27 years of wonderful marriage, and I will gladly share that with any couple I do counsel.  
In fact, the one lesson that I unequivocally say was the most difficult yet helpful lesson I've learned is this:  Relationships require effort.
If you aren't working at the keystone relationships in your life (marriage, kids, close friends, family, co-w…

Changing Your Lenses To Truly See

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Today, I find myself reflecting on how you don't have to be a genius to know that the world is not as it should be.  But you do have to be a genius to skillfully avoid seeing/hearing about all the ways things are messed up and broken.  

These days, the constant stream of bad news seems to find us, no matter what barriers we erect to shield ourselves from it.  

And it can make you feel sick inside--weary and overwhelmed.  If you are not careful (and even when you are) you can quickly and easily begin to see the world solely through the distorted lens of a half-empty glass.  

This morning, I got to thinking about all the ways I've allowed myself to define my view of the world (and some of the people in it) in negative terms.  

I also felt a surge of passion and desire for something better--for the world and for myself.  It filled me like a huge deep breath--the kind you take when you're about to jump off a high dive.  

Today in my morning reading, I was struck by a wonderful poem…

Becoming The Answer To Our Own Prayers

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"I prayed for freedom twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs." 
- Fredrick Douglas

"Prayer changes things." 
"I'm sure they felt the prayers." 
"They could really use our prayers right now." 
"Our thoughts and prayers are with you." 
"We all need to say a prayer right about now."  

People of faith have all kinds of ideas about prayer, and all manner of platitudes to describe them.  

The above list includes just a few of the platitudes that I've used on occasion when I'm responding to a need, a tragedy or simply to comfort and encourage someone.   

I think if we're being truly honest with ourselves, there have been more than a few times in our lives when we have simply said that we "would be praying" for someone or something when we didn't really know what else to say.  

Meanwhile, we are secretly still asking questions about prayer like: "So what happens when we pray?"  …

Break Apart Your Stony Self

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When Bishop Michael Curry delivered his sixteen-minute sermon this past week at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, he didn't hold back.  

His sermon, which was unabashedly Jesus-centered and love-focused quickly became the most memorable moment of the ceremony.  

He preached with a passion and power that had hitherto been unseen or heard in the hallowed halls of St. George's chapel.  Millions upon millions of people heard his stirring and inspiring words on the power of love to overcome injustice and heal all wounds.  

The British newspaper, The Guardian put it like this:  "The American bishops did it black. And he shocked the congregation by refusing to tone down his passionate message on power and love."  

I've been thinking a great deal about why Curry's sermon caused such a stir.  Those words written in The Guardian speak volumes.  People were shocked that he didn't tone down "his passionate message on power and love."  Shocked…

Pentecost - "Wordless Groaning"

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Today is Pentecost Sunday--the day that we celebrate the birth of the Church. 

It's also the day that the early Christian believers experienced the power of the Holy Spirit of God in a brand new, incredible way that changed everything for all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus. 

Christians believe that even though Jesus isn't physically with us, the Holy Spirit of God reveals Jesus to us... guides us to more fully be like Jesus,, and empowers us to be like Jesus to the world.

After Jesus was raised from the dead, he appeared to his followers and promised them that even though he physically wouldn't be with them any longer, he would be with them spiritually and that they would have a Spirit--the Holy Spirit of God---to guide them. 

He said to them:  "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Let me tell you a bit about the full meaning of the Day…

Light

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The struggle to extract meaning from the challenges and obstacles we face in life is perhaps the most difficult struggle that we face as human beings.  

And sometimes that search for meaning can feel like a search for light in the darkness.  We look for any break in the shadows, any illumination at all that can help us see more clearly.  

I recently rediscovered a musical artist that I've been loosely following for several years--Ryan O'Neal, otherwise known by his recordings as Sleeping At Last.  

(If you've never heard Sleeping At Last before, I highly recommend you rectify that immediately and visit the website at www.sleepingatlast.com .)

I was listening to one of Ryan's songs yesterday, and the lyrics seemed to speak directly to that idea I mentioned--the idea of our desperate search for meaning in the darkness of all life's challenges and trials.  

Emphasis

Life is a gorgeous, broken gift, 
Six billion pieces waiting to be fixed, 
Love letters that were never signed
S…