Showing posts from June, 2019

Power Up: Week One - "Powered Up To Love"

Today we are launching a brand new sermon series that is going to take us all the way through the summer months--it's entitled "Power Up" Becoming Empowered By The Holy Spirit.

That's right, we're going to be talking about for the next several weeks--the Third Person of the Trinity, or the Holy Ghost if you're into the traditional, spooky kind of thing.

Some people have written about the Holy Spirit as the "Forgotten God," because most pastors, churches, denominations or church-y organizations spend most of their time talking, preaching and singing about Jesus, with a healthy dose of God, the Father, Creator and Sustainer in there, too.

But the Spirit seems to get short shrift in most churches, unless you happen to be Pentecostal, and then it's all about the Spirit, baby.

What or Who is the Spirit?

What images come to mind for you when you think of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost?

A dove?
A dove on fire?
Casper the friendly ghost?
Is it in you, like G…

I Am No Longer What Happened To Me

There is a thing that happens to us when we experience trauma, or we find ourselves the victim of abuse, violence or a tragedy. 

It's a thing that sometimes finds us sometimes later in life when repressed memories or feelings come flooding to the surface.  Or in many cases, it simply hangs over us like a cloud, always there, never really allowing the sun through. 

What am I talking about? 

It's the thing that happens when we lose our identity in what happened to us so completely that we believe we are defined by it.  It's when we become synonymous with what happened to us, and without that identity, we don't even know who we are. 

I know this intimately, as do many of you who are reading this.  But we don't have to live this way.  The self that has been created when we lose ourselves in what happened to us, is a false self.  It is not who we really are.

Who we are instead is defined by the great love of God, the One who is constantly speaking into our brokenness and th…

Take The Long Way Home

When I was a kid and used to read the comics in the newspaper, one of my favorites was Family Circus, created by Bil Keane.  

Keane would often run comics that depicted the circuitous paths that his son Billy would take on the way home from the bus stop, to the mailbox, or a short cut with his grandma.  

Here's one that I found today that shows Billy's journey from bed to bus: 

I often find myself asking my 8-year-old son where he is going when he heads off in the wrong direction on an errand.  I want him to move in straight lines, but he seems programmed to do the exact opposite. 

At what age do we lose the desire to take a long way home?  

I think it happens slowly over time as we grow busier and busier, and so full of ourselves and our abilities.  

At some point, we stop longing to wander.  We don't get lost anymore.  And when we do, we immediately pull out our smartphones to show us the way.    

And this inability to make the road by walking affects our life of faith, I'm…

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome

I'm always looking for prayers, poems, quotes, and lines that inspire me and make me think... Or ones that convict me to be a better human... Or give me a platform from which to leap further into the world, rather than away from it. 

And sometimes the thing I discover is so unbelievably perfect that I can't help but write it down, ponder it, and sometimes share it with you here in these little reflections I write every day. 

I recently discovered a prayer that was adapted by Fr. Thomas Keating, and then adapted again by Fr. Richard Rohr, and adapted by me. 

Feel free to shape your own adaption to it---apparently, this is a thing. 

Welcome, welcome, welcome. 
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it's for my healing and growth. 
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control. 
I let go of my desire for affection and esteem,
approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and sec…

The Most Perfect Prayer

I've been reading the fourteenth-century Christian masterwork, The Cloud of Unknowing, and it's been blowing my mind.  

There's a lot of archaic language in Unknowing, to be sure.  But still, it's an odd feeling at times to be reading it, and to forget that it's seven hundred years old, and yet so incredibly relevant.  

Take the passage I read today, for example.  The anonymous English author of Unknowing insists that the most perfect prayer that a person can pray is made up of one, simple word:  "Help!"

The author wrote this by way of an explanation:  
Why do you suppose this little prayer of one syllable is so powerful enough to pierce the heavens?  Well, it is because is the prayer of a person's whole being.  A person who prays this does so with all the height and depth and length and breadth of their spirit.If this sounds overly simplistic, it's because it is.  And yet, it is also incredibly profound and deep.  To coin a phrase from one of my favo…

Lessons Learned From Falling Into The Pool

I fell into my pool this morning (Friday) at 4:49 AM. 

I'm aware of the exact time because I glanced at the clock on my cable box as I walked shivering back into the house afterward, glad that there was no one there to see it. 

Oh. I bet you want to know how I fell in the pool.  I just bet you do. 

It happened, like a lot of accidents in the home, prior to coffee being consumed. So, I was not at my best--mentally, or physically, as it turns out. 

Both myself and Elway the dog were awakened at the same time around 4:45AM to the sound of cats screeching at one another.  One of the screeching cats was mine, but the other was an interloper. 

[So it wasn't that kind of screeching, okay. Get your mind out of the gutter. My cat has morals. And also... she's "fixed."]

Elway and I went downstairs and outside to investigate and discovered the strange cat under our patio table.  I grabbed a broom to force the new and awful cat out, and it fled, pursued by Elway. 

As I stumbled alo…

Pentecost 2019

Today is Pentecost Sunday--the birthday of the Church!

We read the story of that day from the book of Acts just a moment or two ago, but we need to set the stage as to why that day was so important, and why we are here celebrating it today.

The passage began with this line:

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

And then there is this line after that:

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

So what was happening here?  Why were there so many people gathered in Jerusal…

When You Don't Feel All That Spiritual

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear one of my spiritual mentors speak at an event.  There was one thing he shared that I have been pondering a bit more lately:  

He revealed that he spends most of his days not really feeling all that spiritual.

This mentor told us that like most people what keeps him from fully experiencing God are all of his unhealthy attachments---all of the things that essentially replace his desire for God.  

This was a revelation to me.  Like my spiritual mentor, I write and think about spiritual matters every single day, and (like him) most of the time I don't feel all that spiritual. 

But I'm learning something about my experience of God as I begin to acknowledge this truth, and the role my own unhealthy attachments play in it. 

You see, I can spend all of my energy trying to understand more of God and connect with the Divine Presence in the world around me, but I will always feel disconnected if I'm trying to do this on my own terms.

It's our pri…

Keep The Wild And It Will Keep You

Keep the wild, and let it keep you.  - Tiffany Aurora

I think that the greatest challenge to Christianity today isn't a theological identity crisis or a cultural divide.  I also don't believe that Christianity's greatest challenge is the ever-increasing blurring of lines between faith and politics.

Those are serious issues, to be fair.  But I think the greatest challenge to Christianity is at the heart of all of those issues and more.  And here it is:

(Cultural) Christianity in America is boring.  

Most Christians are bored in their faith.  They are uninspired by the worship in their church.  They are unmotivated to practice their faith in dynamic ways, and they view their spiritual life as unremarkable.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of churches who ramp up the show on the weekend, complete with smoke, huge screens, lights, and cameras.  And participants will have an hour and change to feelsomething. 

But it wears off.

Let's be honest... you can get the same kind …

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

"What would you do if you were not afraid?"  

I read that question this morning from Christine Aroney-Sine's excellent little book: The Gift of Wonder, and it got me thinking about the way that fear affects most of us.  

I've learned over the years that fear keeps us living small, stunted lives when we could be living fully into the life that God means for us to live... abundant life, filled with hope and joy.  

Jesus repeatedly made this claim to his followers, even going so far as to say that his entire purpose was to help people be free from all of their unhealthy attachments of this world so they could have life in abundance.  

There are all kinds of fears, but perhaps more than any other, the fear of failure can de-motivate us, and keep us from being our truest selves.  Fear of failure is immobilizing and it can keep us from being the vulnerable, authentic and hope-filled God longs for us to be. 

As I thought about how my own fear of failure often keeps me from being…

Pray, and Then Move Your Feet

When you pray, move your feet. - African proverb

One of the most often used cliches in Christian-y world is the phrase, "I'll be praying..."  You can insert a number of things into the last part of that sentence: "for you," "for that situation," "about that," the list is pretty long. 

I feel like those of us who call ourselves Christians don't often know what to say when we are confronted with someone's need, pain, tragedy, etc.  And at the risk of saying something lame, or hurtful we tell them we will pray. 

I've made it a practice to actually pray for people in those moments--even if I am praying silently to myself as they walk away. 

Throughout my years of ministry, I've had people ask me whether I believe prayer actually "works."  Or sometimes they've asked me to weigh in on whether I think it makes a difference to pray if God already has everything planned. 

I do think prayer works at a number of levels. 

Prayer …

No One Taught You To Love You

I was having a conversation with someone the other day about why so many people seem to be turned off to Christianity and are walking away from the Church. 

We listed all the reasons that people typically give:

"Christians are judgmental."
"Church is an unsafe place to be if you're 'different' in any way."
"The Church is irrelevant to most people." 

The list got longer and longer.  Honestly, we could have kept going. 

Later, I got to thinking about how we could rattle off all of the symptoms of the problem with relative ease.  In fact, we got a lot of energy from doing so--albeit not the kind of energy that felt all that productive. 

When we try to get to the bottom of the issue, though.  That's where it gets a bit tricky.  The answers don't come as easily then.  Which is why I've been thinking about this more deeply since then. 

So if all of those things are true about Christians and the Church how does that happen?  How do Christians get…

Witnesses - Week Six: "What Must I Do?"

This is what is known as the Season of Easter in the historic church calendar, and until next week we'll be continuing to celebrate Easter, and today we'll also be concluding our sermon series, "Witnesses."

Because where we are in respect to Easter Sunday is about the time that those first-century followers of Christ were 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…