Showing posts from April, 2019

Finding Space For Grace

My middle son recently attended the annual youth Confirmation Retreat with other 8th and 9th-grade students from our church youth group.

After the retreat, the students came and met with the elders of our church to share the faith statements they worked on as part of the confirmation process.  They were then received into church membership and we celebrated them this past Sunday morning in one of our worship services.

There were many things I loved about this process, but mostly I was incredibly proud of the way in which our youth ministry staff and leaders facilitated the whole thing.

To begin with, none of the kids felt pressured to become a church member or to make a declarative faith statement.  It was their choice whether they wanted to see things through to that end, and they were not made to feel poorly if they didn't.

I also loved how our youth staff created space for grace and gave the students permission to sit in unknowing and to grapple with their questions about faith, Go…

Is God Enough?

I read this prayer in a book I've been using as a prompt and a guide for journalling over the past several weeks, and it's been haunting me ever since.  
May it be enough for me to see God in the world. - Justin McRobertsEven now as I write that prayer down, I'm struck by the weight of it.  What does it mean to speak those words, really?  What am I signing on for when I say them, and seek to live them?  

There is a niggling thought that emerges when I seek to pray that prayer in earnest, and I'm wondering if the same thought might occur to you if you did the same.  It's this:  "If was able to see God in the world, would it really enough?"

Because there are so many things that are vying for our attention... so many things that offer the possibility of filling up our time, our energy, our thoughts, and passions.  And some of these things are good things, things that we would all agree would be worthy of our pursuit. 

But what I've noticed about so many of m…

Witnesses - Week One: "We Are Witnesses"

It's still Easter, dadgummit.  Let's milk this.  Jesus is Risen!

The Season of Easter has just begun, and we'll be celebrating Easter for the next several weeks, as we launch into a brand new sermon series.

And this is just about the time that those first-century followers of Christ started asking a question--which is the same question you and I ought to be asking, too:    "Jesus rises.  Now what?"

It's a good thing that we are not alone in asking this very question.  Jesus' disciples wondered the same thing, and almost immediately after Jesus was raised from the dead.  We know this because of the book of Acts.

I love the arc that the story in the book of Acts takes.

It begins with a bunch of scared people in a room, wondering what is going to happen to them---disciples of Jesus, who are afraid to venture outside the door because they think they might be killed. 

It ends---literally---with the word "unhindered" as the Apostle Paul sits imprisoned in …

Stars, God DNA and Cracked Earthen Vessels

The three most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our lovability, divinity, and creativity. - Brene Brown

I want you to know two very important things today that will change your life if you embrace them and hold them close to your heart.  

First, you are created in the image of God.  The good news is that this is true even if you don't believe in God.  

And listen, I'm not saying that last thing to sound condescending or holier-than-thou.  I just want you to allow yourself to bask in the idea of you being inundated with Divine DNA.  

The second thing I want you to know today is that you are made of stars.  This is true because we know that all of the atoms, molecules, cells and such that make you-you, are part of a finite number of elements that have been here since the beginning of all things. 

And all of those elements (stardust) came from somewhere else--spoken into existence by God in what some people call a "Big Bang" (how would you descri…

Loving The Medium, Not The Message

Author and activist Elie Wiesel once told his students a parable of a man who was so in love with a certain woman that he sent her letters every day.  Eventually, Wiesel remarked, she fell in love with the mailman.

I've been thinking about that story for a couple of months, just letting it marinate a bit.  

I'm not sure how that kind of thing works for you, but sometimes I have to sit with a story, a thought, a quote or an idea before I can begin to hear more clearly how it is speaking, and what it might be saying.  

Today it came to me.  

Futurist Marshall McLuhan once said something incredibly profound about the way that people perceive what they are hearing, seeing, experiencing.  For good or bad, McLuhan firmly believed that: "The medium is the message."  

In other words, no matter what the man was saying in his letters, the woman he was in love with began to associate those words with the person who was delivering them and fell for him instead.  

I feel like that far …

Millions Of Drops Of Water

My youngest son is perhaps the most persistent human being on the face of the earth.  If he requests something of you and is denied, he will almost assuredly ask again, immediately.  

And if he gets the same reply, he will continue to ask unabated until your patience runs out and you say something sinister through clenched teeth like, "I said 'No!'  Now go ahead and ask me again... just go ahead.  See what happens."  

Honestly, there have been moments when that or something like that has been said and my boy will pause, and actually consider trying it out.  He's that persistent.  

It is my fervent hope that he will one day channel that persistent nature of his to do awesome things in the world.  Because sometimes you have to keep at it if you want the world to change.  Sometimes if you want justice, you have to seek it relentlessly.  

Jesus got this.  He once told a parable about a widow who kept appearing before a judge wanting him to decide a case in her favor.  Sh…

Jesus Is Risen, Now What?

As I write this, it is the Monday after Easter.  I've drunk about four cups of coffee, and none of them seem to have taken.  I'm groggy, tired, wrung out and generally feeling kind of less than my best. 

I am having to resist the urge to go somewhere and eat pancakes... lots of pancakes. 

For those of us who serve as pastors or church staffers, the Monday after Easter is a tough day.  All of the effort, planning and the energy that was spent preparing and then facilitating Easter worship services ends abruptly and then you start realizing how tired you are. 

I got to thinking today about Jesus' disciples and how they must have felt on the Monday after Easter.  I imagine that they were all pretty stunned and exhausted from all that happened that weekend.

The Gospel accounts don't really give us a timeline to the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus to his followers.  But I think that the Monday after Easter was a day when the disciples sat around groggy, tired, wrung out …

Post Easter Breakfast Reflections

I wrote this devo a couple of years ago, but I thought it was an appropriate reprint for the Monday after Easter... 

I'm not much of a cook, but, since I am passable at making breakfast, I sometimes prepare it for the family in the morning.  It's nothing fancy, mind you, just bacon or sausage and eggs, waffles or pancakes for my youngest son (the frozen kind), and generally a second cup of coffee for myself and my wife.  

It makes me happy to do this.  My wife Merideth tells me that the feeling I get is often what she experiences when she prepares meals for "her boys."  Merideth is actually a really good cook, and she truly enjoys it.  So, it makes it even more special to me that she relinquishes something she loves to do, in order for me to experience some of the same joy she feels.     

One day she and I were talking about the scene from John's Gospel where the risen Jesus appears to his disciples by the Sea of Galilee while they are out fishing.  When they finall…

Easter 2019 - "Let Us Not Mock God With Metaphor"

This is it folks.  The Day of Days.  The Moment we've been waiting for... 

We dressed up and came ready to party, am I right?  I mean I feel that way, don't you? It's Easter Sunday, people, and I'm wearing my bow tie.

In our Presbyterian tradition, we get all giddy with our liturgy even in the worship services where we don't do all the formal things.  And so that's why when I say, JESUS IS RISEN, you will respond by saying HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Visitors be like...  Man, these Presbys are flat crazy.  Why yes... yes we are. 

Just so we're clear... just so we're clear... We are celebrating the impossible.  That's why we get all crazy.  We are celebrating the impossible.  Because it's impossible that someone would die, be buried for three days and then rise again.  Impossible.

And that's the Big Question for so many people---including some of us who just lost our minds shouting.  "The Resurrection really happened right?" 

Or we could pose the…

Never Lose Hope

All week long I have been sharing prayers from a prayer book I've been using throughout the season of Lent.  But today, since it's Good Friday, I decided to write my own prayer. 

Good Friday is part of what is known as the Triduum---the three holiest days of Holy Week:  Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  It is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus which happened "between noon and three" in the afternoon on the Jewish Sabbath, which is Friday. 

So today I thought I would share some thoughts about the loss of hope, and this particular prayer came to me this morning:

May I discover the peace that comes from never losing hope even when all seems lost.  

I was reading something that the renowned lecturer and author Joan Chittister wrote in her book The Way of The Cross:  
Sometimes things don't have a happy ending in life.  They just grind on until loss becomes the new normal.  It's true.  There are times in our lives when we fail.  We fall flat…

Giving Yourself A Break & Some Grace

Throughout Holy Week I'll be sharing some prayers from a book I've been using as a prayer guide through Lent: Prayer: Forty Days of Practice.  I hope that these prayers and the reflections that accompany them will be meaningful to you as we journey with Jesus through Holy Week.  

Prayer for Thursday of Holy Week: 

May I have hope for myself the way I do for others. 

The prayer for today prompted me to reflect on the number of personality assessment courses that I've taken over the years.  Spoiler alert:  I've taken a lot of them, but here's the skinny on where you'll find me on some of them:

I'm an ENFP on the Meyers-Briggs assessment.  I'm a "D" on DISC.  I identify as a "3" on the Enneagram.  My number one Signature Theme on Strengths Finder is "Achiever." 

You don't have to know a lot about these kinds of assessments to understand that I'm probably pretty hard on myself when it comes to performance, results, and achie…

Notre Dame, Hope & Resurrection

Throughout Holy Week I'll be sharing some prayers from a book I've been using as a prayer guide through Lent: Prayer: Forty Days of Practice.  I hope that these prayers and the reflections that accompany them will be meaningful to you as we journey with Jesus through Holy Week.  

Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week: 

May I never grow tired of starting over or helping others do the same.  My hope is always in renewal and resurrection.

Two days ago, much of the world watched in horror and dismay as a fire raged in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Firefighters were able to save as much of the iconic structure as they could, but the damage was devastating. 

Like so many of my friends who have had the fortune of visiting Paris and touring Notre Dame, I had my own memories to draw upon as I watched the story unfold yesterday.  I've shared some of those memories before in a devotion: 

In 2007, while on an epic trip to London and Paris for our anniversary, Merideth and I found ourselves …

Seeing Yourself In Others

Throughout Holy Week I'll be sharing some prayers from a book I've been using as a prayer guide through Lent: Prayer: Forty Days of Practice.  I hope that these prayers and the reflections that accompany them will be meaningful to you as we journey with Jesus through Holy Week.  

Prayer for Tuesday of Holy Week: 

May my awareness of faults in myself or others never open the door to spite but grant me a deep appreciation for grace. 

Like the prayer from yesterday, this prayer has a two-fold focus for the one praying: Self & Others. 

If we would enter fully into the power of this prayer, we would first need to recognize that our own faults are intimately connected to the faults we perceive in others. 

A very kind and wise spiritual guide once taught me to repeat this phrase whenever I began to explore the faults I saw in other people--the kind of faults that cut me to the core, angered me beyond belief, or otherwise got my goat. 

My spiritual mentor would say, "What I see in …