Showing posts from November, 2018

How You Talk About Yourself Matters

It's a terrible feeling to discover that someone close to you has been talking badly about you behind your back.  The feeling of betrayal in those moments is enough to take your breath away.  We all know that feels like, sadly.  

But over time, I've discovered that the person who spends the most time talking trash about me and tearing me down is none other than the same person who I squint at in the morning when I brush my teeth--namely, me.  

Debilitating and defeating self-talk is one of the most bruising and awful things that we do to ourselves.  It often sounds something like this:  

"I'm not good at those kinds of things..." 

"This always happens to me..." 

"I'm so stupid..." 

"Why do I always get myself into these messes...?" 

"That's the story of my life: one bad thing after another..." 

You can probably come up with a few of your own that you've heard yourself say from time to time. My own list is a lot longer m…

When Your Plans Are Thwarted By Others

Not that long ago, I was trying to leave the parking lot of a shopping center during rush hour, and get turned around in the right direction for home.  

This meant that I was going to have to navigate my way to a narrow median and then wait for a break in traffic before flooring it to get into the desired lane. Suddenly, I saw my moment--things were going to work out perfectly with the oncoming cars moving just in the right sequence. 

Everything was perfect until one of the drivers decided to make a turn, and the whole sequence fell apart.  

"Aaaaghhh!" I exclaimed.  My wife Merideth sat quietly for a second and then asked, "Did you seriously just get mad at the person for making a turn?"  "Yes!" I exclaimed, "They messed up my whole plan!"  "You're ridiculous," she told me.  I knew she was right, but I didn't admit it.  

Until now, that is.  

I once read a quote from the Roman Emperor and Stoic, Marcus Aurelius that spoke right int…

You Were Made To Worship

I believe that the Spirit of God within us creates a longing to connect not just with other people, but with God, who knows us better than we know ourselves.

We long to know and to be known.  We long to truly feel.  To not give in to the despair that comes from the resignation that this is all there is, and there is no Creator or Designer, no plan or purpose.

Because when we resign ourselves to this--even slightly--we end up trying to fulfill our longings with other things, other feelings or even what some might call other "gods."

But when those longings are met for real. We know it.  When we realize (sometimes surprisingly) that there really is a God, and that God is actually connected to us.  It draws out emotions, feelings we didn't know we had.

And when we respond to these emotions we often sing... or pray... or weep... or stand up and dance... or we fall down to our knees or on our faces...

This is called "worship" by some people--a full-on, emotionally-charged…

The True Meaning of Gratitude

Yesterday I was feeling a little raw and got vulnerable here in this space about the challenges that my family has been facing this past week.  It wasn't the first time, and I imagine it won't be the last.   

So many of you responded with stories of your own, words of encouragement and offers of help, prayers, and positive vibes.  It meant a lot to me because as a pastor it's not easy to be vulnerable and to admit that things aren't always hunky-dory.  

I am grateful for the grace I receive from you, dear reader.  I can actually feel it sometimes if that makes any sense at all.  It fills me with such gratitude.  

I'm actually preaching on gratitude this month, and so I've been reading and thinking about it for a couple of weeks.  

I'm learning that being able to feel and express gratitude is one of the most vital aspects of experiencing what the ancient Hebrew writers referred to as shalom or the peace of God.  

But I'm also learning that it's not always…

Because You Say So

It's been a tough week for me and my family.  I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say... I've been hard-pressed to think of a worse stretch of days, other than the week my mom died.  

I always try to be real on these daily devotions--to be honest and forthright about what I'm thinking.  They are as much for me some days as they are for any of you who might be reading them.  

And I have to say that God and I have been having some tough moments lately.  I was journaling yesterday and the words that formed on the pages of my journal were hard and angry.  I wondered where God was and found myself asking repeatedly, "Will you just show up?"  

Then this morning a passage of Scripture from Luke chapter 5 came into my mind, and I can't think it's a coincidence.  
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But…

You Come By It Honestly

Some time ago, a friend of mine had shared a video on her Facebook page.  It was a compilation video of children and teens showing kindness and good sportsmanship to one another on the playing field. 

In one memorable moment, a high school softball player, who had been paralyzed from an accident, was carried around the bases by members of an opposing team so she could experience one last home run.  

My friend commented that she had tears streaming down her face when she watched the video.  I have to admit, I, too, felt a knot in my own throat as I watched. 

I got to thinking about all of the similar "feel-good" videos I've been seeing lately on other friends' Facebook pages---quite a lot of them actually.  I've often wondered about the popularity of these videos.  What makes us watch them, share them and cry over them?  

In the book of Genesis, the Creation account declares that God created humankind (both male and female) in the "image of God."  In brief, …

Your Thoughts And Prayers Aren't Enough

The news is grim this morning.  We all woke up today to the news of yet another mass shooting--this time at a club near Pepperdine University in Southern California.  13 dead, including the gunman and at least 10 injured.

I heard a television commentator remark, "This is the worst mass shooting in the United States... in the last twelve days."  

In fact, there have been eleven mass shootings in America since the shooting that took place at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th.  10 people were killed in those eleven other mass shootings and 46 people were injured.  

People of faith always struggle to know what to say during these tragedies, but far too many Christians end up saying the wrong things, and sometimes publicly.  

Today, as I watched the news, I was reminded once again of the lyrics of a song by the rock band A Perfect Circle. 

In the song "Talk Talk" the band criticizes Christians for the way we will often send our "thoughts and prayers" to the…

A Post-Election Message of Hope and Healing

Election 2018 has finally come to an end. For those who may have been suffering from election fatigue these past few weeks, it's a probably a welcome relief.

But now, after months and months of being made aware of all the ways Americans seem to be divided, we will hear (at least for a short season) that we must come together. 

Abraham Lincoln, who presided over a much more severely divided nation spoke these words after the Civil War. "We are not enemies but friends," he said, "though passion may have must not break our bonds of affection." 

They are fine words, and historic. But the road to unity is going to be difficult, and there are many among us who are anxious and fearful of what lies ahead.  

As the Church, the Body of Christ, we need to lead the way in the healing that must begin after another long and contentious political season. 

How can we do this? We can first recognize that as the Church we are called to "unity in diversity," th…

Finding Peace and Hope On Election Day

Some of the content of today's devo can be found in previous election day devos from the past few years.  The words are still true--and the encouragement is still relevant.    

Today is Election Day in America.  After months of endless campaigning, it all comes down to today.  I have read that 36 million people in America exercised their freedom to vote in early voting and that 105.5 million people will vote overall.  

Even though (according to experts) this is a staggering number, it's still only 45 percent of eligible voters.  

It's been a very long, contentious and often ugly election season.  Most of us have never seen the likes of it.  The 24 Hour News Media has reveled in it the entire time--stirring the pot, keeping the sound bites coming, creating higher and higher levels of anxiety.  

As a result, millions of people have become convinced that if their candidate does not win, it will be the end of the world as we know it... and they won't feel fine.  

The anxiety of…

The True Meaning of Courage

One of my "go to" phrases when I am offering someone counsel or advice is simply this: 

"Surrender the outcomes." 

It's a phrase that spills easily out of me when I'm trying to do my best to bolster someone's courage, and give them a sense of hope that whatever they are going through is not going to be the end of them. 

I know it works.  My attempts at controlling all of the outcomes to the hard seasons and big decisions of my life never work out all that well.  When I've white-knuckled my grip on my own life and refused to allow God even the slightest bit of control, things typically end badly. 

And still, despite my thorough belief in surrendering the outcomes to God, I still struggle with it from time to time.  I believe it all comes down to my aversion to vulnerability.  I hate feeling exposed.  I don't like letting my armor down. 

Maybe some of you feel the same way, too.    

And the dirty little secret of that feeling is that it can leave you fe…

Seeing God's Hind Parts

There's a strange moment in the book of Exodus from the Hebrew Scriptures where Moses is hanging out with God on Mt. Sinai getting all of the Commandments, and all of a sudden Moses says this to God: "Now show me your glory." 

To which God essentially replies, "My glory?  You can't handle my glory!  No one can experience the fullness of Me and live."  

Then it's almost as if God sees that God's answer saddens Moses, and so God says this:  
Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back, but my face must not be seen.”Another way of translating that last line is " will see my hind parts." 

So God hides Moses in a cleft in the rock and passes by Moses, revealing only God's "hind parts."  And this encounter with God so affects Moses th…

For the Departed

Today is All Saints Day on the Christian calendar.  For many Christians, this is the day when they remember loved ones who have (in the words of the Apostle Paul) gone on "to be with the Lord."  

I get asked all of the time what I believe happens to us when we die.  I could write for pages on my thoughts and hopes about that topic, but I'll try to capture some of what I believe in today's devo... 

The Christian departed, I truly believe, are in a state of restful happiness, with God, at one with God, completely content, joyful and awaiting the complete renewal of all things.  

Do they dream? Do they experience the creative imagination of God, the connection of God to the world and to their loved ones? I have no idea--I would like to think they do.  I'm going to claim that, to be honest. 

N.T. Wright explains that state of restful happiness and waiting like this:  "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the…