Friday, February 29, 2008


"I just need a few more hours in the day."

"I have a few more things to do but not enough time to get it all done.'

"If I just had another day in the week." is your day. February 29, a Leap Year Day. This is day that only comes every few years. It is a day that doesn't appear on the calendar yearly.

So, it seems like an extra day to me since it doesn't come every year. So let's see....How will I spend it?

It's early. I am sitting in Panera Bread sipping from the free internet and nursing a steaming mug of java.

Here is something that I observe as i sit here. It seems like people who wander into Panera Bread don't have watches on. It seems like they are able to make time bend to accomodate them rather than laboring under the "tyranny of the ought." It's as though they are experiencing life in slow motion.

I have people that I am meeting with today. The best part is that I am going to hear their stories. Eugene Peterson is right...

"We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters."

It is Friday, February 29th. It is another day to hear the stories of people who are trying to figure out where they fit into life.

I need to "get a move on." Wait a minute....that's the problem.

I need to "be still" and wait for the Story Author.

Gotta comes my "next story." I wonder what has happened in his life since the last time we talked.

I am anxious to lay aside my plot and narrative so that he can have plenty of room to trace the rhythms of God's grace in his life.

When was the last time that you were attentive to His Story?

One of my favorite lines is...Once upon a time....

Gotta is happening...don't want to miss it.

Just a thought...

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Randy Pope is right.

He says it like it is.

Writing in his book entitled, The Prevailing Church, he says…

“The church leadership often hears, “If you change, I will leave.” Unfortunately, few people are speaking up for the lost communities who are thinking, at least subconsciously, “If you don’t change, I won’t come.” p.92.

Who is church for?

Is it for those who have feasted at the table and altar and know with certainty where they will go when they die? Or is it for those who have lost their way and aren’t sure which direction to orient their life toward? Or is it both?

Sadly, to often we are more concerned with keeping saints satisfied rather than attracting “askers” who are longing for something to erase the angst of their life.

To be sure, we are interested in reaching lost people, but often on our terms. We are not sure what to do with people who bring “checked baggage” into our churches.

We are a lot like the flight attendants who smilingly tell us “please stow all of your belongings into the overhead compartment or underneath the seat in front of you.”

The people I am meeting are looking for a place where they can unpack their baggage and find a safe place to tell their story.

In northern Spain, there is a way known as El Camino de Santiago. Along that pathway there is an albergue, or pilgrim’s hostel. On a sign at its entrance are these words.

"open to all, well and ill, not only to Catholics, but to pagans, Jews, and heretics, the idler and the vagabond and, to put it shortly, the good and the wicked.”

I guess I want to welcome people in the same way that He welcomed me when I came home.

Just a thought….

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Here's a quick word etymology lesson for those of you who are keeping score at home.

Sow-eth, the archaic third-person singular present tense suffix. In other words it is the act of sowing, distributing or sowing.

But I can't help stumble over the KJV rendition of this word. Soweth.

There are sixteen times when soweth is used in the Scriptures. There are all kinds of places that it creeps up in the story of scripture.

There is the Proverbs moment where a warning is given to, "he that soweth discord among the brethren." 6:19. Hmm....scattering conflict among the brethren is a pretty serious problem.

There is the Pauline use in Galatians, "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." 6:8. This is a modern expression of what it means to be on an ego trip.

Here's one last one..."Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:8

That's a lot of "soweths."

I wonder if I stumble over the archaic use of that word and forget to sow. Quite frankly, I don't read from the King James because of the "-eths, doths, and shalts."

It trips me up. Nobody I know talks like that except for a few people that prayed out loud on Wednesday evening when I was growing up.

I wonder how many things we stumble over. I wonder how many words are in the Scripture that trip us and we fail to do what they say.

Ancient statues often contain petroglyphs using ancient words, things like "whatsoever a man soweth..." It would be easy to walk past, admire the beauty of the carvings, and go on about our way.

It is quite another to stop, look at the words and let them be carved into our hearts of stone.

I want to be a person that "soweth." I want to "sow."

So what? you say.

I want to "sow" the seed that God has given me. I want to "sow" stories into the hearts of waiting people.

"Soweth"...yes, its an old word form, but the concept is fresh and needed in a world of hearts that are often closed to the Greatest Story.

How are you doing in the "soweth" department?

Just a thought.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Welcome. What an interesting word. It seems like a word that should mean"come on in."

It's the kind of word that you see on signs advertising restaurants along the expressway.

You see it on mats at doorway entries.

It is even seen above building doorways.

We say it to people throughout the day.

But do we really mean it?

The church I attend wants people to feel welcome. We do all kinds of things to ensure that people who visit become part of the family. Some of the things that we do are subtle and others are overt. The goal is to make people feel welcome.

Here's what I am wondering. Is it possible to hang a sign over the door of our church and then build a fence that people have to pass through to experience our welcome?

Many churches adopt a model that says, "we want you to behave like us...believe like us and then you belong. A fence is erected. The welcome sign is out, but there are some rules.

The church I attend has adopted a model that looks like this. "We want you to belong...we want you to believe, then we think you will behave like a kingdom person." The welcome sign is out.

I think all churches want people to feel welcome. But there are fences that must be passed through before a person is welcome.

There are a lot of people that I meet daily who aren't a part of the church today because the fences and barriers were larger than the church's welcome.

I am just wondering to do we spend more time on "welcome" or "fences?"

Just a thought....

Monday, February 25, 2008


Walking into the lecture hall was intimidating. The smell of the room was nothing like the smell of my first grade classroom. But there was still an aroma in the lecture hall.

Sitting in the fifth row seemed like an adequate distance from the professor.

From his opening words until he closed the lecture, time seemed to stand still. A smooth southern accent massaged the ears of those attending his lectures.

He said things like, "Take out your notebooks and lets begin class." "See you on church on Sunday." And" gentleman the test will be on Thursday at 9:20 AM."

Thursday came.

Then he prayed a prayer like this. "Dear God, we pray that you will help those who have studied and remind those who didnt study that they are on their own. Amen." I have been on both sides of those prayers.

He was a giant. He was a saint. He loved God and made me want to love God.

I learned several things from this giant.

I developed an insatiable appetite for the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts

I learned that stories open people's hearts to The Story.

I learned that writing and storytelling are noble tasks.

This giant? Dr. William McCumber

I am not sure where he is today, but I know that some of what he tried to communicate in that aromatic lecture hall has taken up residence in my soul.

May I be a steward of the gifts that he gave me and may I be a steward of the gifts that He has given me. Both are important.

Just a thought.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I was at His House today.

I have been there many times, but today was different.

It was a day that reminds me of one of my favorite definitions of "revival."

Revival is when, "God gets tired of being mis-represented and decides to show up and represent Himself."

Yep. That's what happened.

God showed up. He represented Himself well. He destroyed all of our measly representations of him. He was powerful. We stood silent before Him at the close of the service.

Yep, you guessed it. A few people cleared their throats. A pew creaked. There were a few other noises that I couldn't identify.

Then, there He was. "How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given..." God. That's right God showed up. In the silence, he showed up.

It caught some people by surprise. Even those who had prayed a prayer something like, "God please show up and meet with us," seemed to be caught off guard.

You see, we think we can predict how, when and where God will show up. The only thing we can do is be prepared for the moment when He shows up.

When was the last time God showed up where you worship? I mean really showed up and did something that could only be attributed to His Power.

Do you remember the words from your days of playing Hide and Go Seek? "Ready or not here I come." Sound familiar?

I am convinced that God shows up when people are ready.

Just a thought.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


The weather in the Northeast part of the United States is cold, blustery, and snowy. Flights have been delayed and passengers have been slowed in their travels.

Nearly a year ago USA Today carried an article in section B of their newspaper. JetBlue CEO, David Neeleman promised customers travel vouchers for excessive waits on his airlines.

All of this was brought about when 1,100 flights were cancelled during a period of several days. The cancellations affected an estimated 130,000 people and left people stranded in terminals and on the tarmac.

Over a hundred thousand people waiting, sitting, and wondering if they would be able to make their destinations. I wonder if they sat quietly. I wonder if they were busy trying to make arrangements in an effort to keep up their busy hectic lives. I wonder if anybody used that time to sit in silence and reflect on their journey.

Today is another day in the Lenten season. It is a time to reflect. It is a time of "excessive" waiting.

Waiting is a difficult thing to do. Sitting alone in silence is even more difficult, and yet that is what I think the Lenten season is about.

Sitting alone in silences gives pilgrims an opportunity to consider areas of our lives that need His attention and care. Often in our busy-ness we attempt to silence the deep cries of our hearts for His presence.

I love what Jeremiah says in the book of Lamentations...

The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to

the one who seeks Him, it is good to wait quietly for

the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26

Finally the plane taxied down the runway after holding its JetBlue passengers for nearly nine hours. Cheers of joy erupted from those that were watching snowflakes fall on the wings of the paralyzed jet. The wait was over . The destination was ahead.

Here's a thought...

What if the journey is ahead of us?

What if its not a journey of "doing things?"

What if it is a journey of "being in His presence?"

Jeremiah was right..."it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

What's the big hurry?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rigid Ways

"From Francis and the early Franciscans I have learned that there are not rigid "ways" to God; there are only those who make their way to God and who leave us a record of their journey." The Way of St. Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone, Murray Bodo. 1995.

"Rigid Ways." That phrase haunts me.

I wonder what it means and how our understanding of God's ways are always eclipsed by the prejudice of our ways.

Be very careful about "recipe approaches." Exercise caution when someone says, "here are four steps" to following God. "Here are three principles" to knowing the will of God.

It makes me wonder...If we can explain how God acts and works, have we really understood God? And is it God? Or is it a god of our own making?

Somewhere in Scripture it says, "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."

Who said we have to "find our own way?" We see in the lives of those who have gone before us hints and clues about ways to God. There are plenty of saints who have left us "a record of their journey."

I am searching for "journey records" to guide me. I am in quest of "maps" that will propel me forward in my pilgrimage. I am in quest of "stories" that connect me to His Story.

I guess I am searching for some good reading for the road...

"journey records....maps....stories" I would settle for two out of three.

Just a thought....


“Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.” Soren Kierkegaard

We live in very interesting times. We live in a time when more is known than perhaps any other time in history. And yet, we know less about living life. Why is that?

To often we spend time thinking about the future and what it will look like. Seldom do we think about paths that brought us to where we are today.

Kierkegaards words are poignant. Yes, we are living life forward, but understanding comes when we are able to look backward.

People I meet everyday talk glibly about pilgrimages, journeys and trips.

I have been thinking about the word, "pilgrimage." I think I know what it means. There are days when I feel like I am on a "pilgrimage," and there are days when it seems like the way is difficult to find.

Quiet frankly, I spend more time mapping out future terrain than I do studying the maps of those who have walked this path before me.

I want to re-work the word "pilgrimage" for a moment. I want to change it by inserting a hyphen. The new word, "pilgrim-age."

We are living in the "pilgrim-age" where everyone is searching for the path that will lead them into a God-shaped encounter. Sadly, the path often takes many toward god-shaped encounters that lead them astray.

I am calling for shepherds, griots, leaders to remind us again that we are living in a "pilgrim-age." An age where we affirm that we are on a sacred journey that re-defines who we are and where we are headed.

The apostle Paul was onto something when he wrote, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders..." I Thessalonians 4:11-12.

Here are a couple of questions that I must ask myself if my ambition is to "lead a quiet life."

Am I on a walk or am I on a pilgrimage?

Am I fully present in this "pilgrim-age?"

Am I winning the respect of others by what I do or by what He is doing in me?

I am living forwards, but I am looking backwards. Backwards at key intersections that forged new directions for the Church. Backwards at significant paths taken by those who beckon me to walk faithfully in this "pilgrim-age."

Thank you St. Francis of Assisi...thank you Francois Fenelon....thank you David Brainerd....thank you Jonathan Edwards...thank you to those on whose shoulders I regularly stand to get a better view of what's behind.

I am on a pilgrimage in a "pilgrim-age."


Be sure to look both ways before you cross the street.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

For Sale

"The greatest crime of our industrial and commercial civilization is that it leaves us a taste only for that which may be bought with money, and makes us overlook the purest and truest joys that are all the time within our reach."
- Paul Sabatier, The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis.

Has consumerism, materialism and capitalism bought the Christian faith and re-worked it into something that is more marketable and palatable to the masses.

Have we overlooked, "the purest and truest joys" that are within our reach?

Do we consult USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, or Oprah for words that will change our lives.

I am reading biographies of St. Francis of Assisi in an effort to journey on the "road through the past leading to the future."

St. Francis, was an interesting pilgrim...He was called by God in an epiphany, ostracized by family and friends, and led a group of fellow pilgrims in acts of piety which led to the founding of a holy order.

Embracing the vow of poverty, St. Francis sought to embody a faith and praxis that seems distant from pilgrims that I meet on my journey.

The Bishop of Assisi approached St. Francis one day and said, "Your way of living without owning anything seems to me very harsh and difficult."

St. Francis' reply is powerful.

"My Lord, if we possessed property we should have need for arms for its defense, for it is the source of quarrels and lawsuits, and the love of God and of one's neighbor usually finds many obstacles in it. This is why we do not desire temporal goods."

Then it hit me...

The faith that is up for sale on so many religious corners is the one that I am willing to let go of as I take steps on my spiritual journey. The faith that is being offered on television, radio and from many pulpits seems anemic.

Robert Webber in his book entitled, Younger Evangelicals, quotes David Di Sabatino who has served as the editor of Worship Leader.

"Silence every radio and television preacher, stop every evangelical book or tract from being published, take down every evangelical website from the net and simply ask Christians to show one tangible expression of Jesus's love to another person every day. We would be far better off." p.217.

St. Francis would say, "true that...."

What say ye?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ancient Future

"Either Christianity itself is flawed, failing, [or] untrue, or our modern, Western, commercialized, industrial-strength version of it is in need of a fresh look, a serious revision." -Brian D. McLaren in introduction to The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier, Tony Jones, 2008.

Sitting in Barnes & Noble reading those words gave me an existential chill.

Something is "up" in a world that is "down." What if the brand of Christianity peddled by today's churches is anemic in light of the angst felt by most of today's pilgrims?

I feel it. I sense it. I wonder if I am the only one.

I wonder what would happen if 1st century Christianity met the Christianity in the church I attend? Would they recognize one another? Is there a marked difference?

Colleen Carol Campbell, a journalist has been probing these issues. Her research suggests that todays young people whom she identifies as "new faithfuls" are growingly dissatisfied with a culturally co-opted Christianity and are searching for meaning to their faith by returning to the faith of the early church.

"New Faithfuls" is not just a young demographic. It is a group of people who are increasingly dissatisfied with a faith that seems to be suffering. Today's faith-immune system has been compromised and leaves our faith vulnerable to every stray infection.

Why are the "new faithfuls" embracing orthodoxy and passively rejecting the faith expressions of contemporary Christianity?

The answer might lie in the simple statement taken from the introduction to Robert E. Webber's book, Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World.

"The road to the future runs through the past."

What road are you on?

I am walking backward in an effort to take steps forward. It's a paradox. It doesn't make sense.

It seems the further back into the past I walk, the clearer I am able to see the future.

Just a thought...

In the days ahead, watch for stories from the past to inform our future.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Hurrying into the local drugstore to retrieve a prescription and the family one hour photos I was to learn a valuable lesson. Pushing ahead with my personal agenda and rushing through the aisles I was held up by a little old lady who was shuffling behind her walker.

“I’m sorry I am so slow” she said. I responded with a typical non descript response, “That’s O.K” What she said next jarred my malaise. “I was just admiring the beautiful tile floor in here.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from this beautiful woman who was in her early 80’s. She was shuffling behind her walker while her daughter pushed her way to the check-out counter. There we were. She behind her walker, me behind in my daily busyness.

What was God trying to say to me as I was busily pursuing my scheduled activities? What was God trying to teach me during this brief aisle encounter?

Frustration was rising as I saw her eyes glued to the tile floor as she slowly shuffled her feet along the floor. “Come on, come on, hurry up lady.” Those words were ringing in my head as I was anxious to get to the one hour photo counter to retrieve my daughters photos.

She was moving toward me as I dodged her daughter coming my way. Her arms were clutching packages as tightly as her mom was clutching the walker. It seemed as though three generations were locked in the cosmetic aisle of the local drugstore.

Moving in slow motion the elderly woman finally raised her glance to catch my attention. She apologized repeatedly for moving so slowly.

This seasoned citizen had captured the complexity of living a life of appreciated simplicity. She was not so consumed by the busyness of the season that she didn’t have time to look at the patterns of the floor tile.

As soon as she announced the reason for her slowness, I took the time to look down at floor tile and its pattern. Admittedly, I did not see the beauty that she had seen.

I patiently waited as she passed by where I was standing. Still staring at the floor I vaguely sensed that she was gone. I moved toward the one hour photo counter and looked back at the aisle where my path crossed this senior citizens.

The floor was not much different than other commercial businesses. What made this floor different was that two people stopped to admire its beauty. I would have never noticed the floor except that she brought it to my attention.

I began to wonder. How much do I miss everyday because I am so busy with my schedule and my agenda. I am thankful for the opportunity that God gave me to stop and to see His plan.

Just a thought...

Sunday, February 17, 2008


"In order to become myself, I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be." - Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation.

He is right.

There are times when we must sacrifice what we want for what He wants.

I am sitting in the chapel of the church I attend listening to the worship team prepare for worship. They are "running through" the music.

I don't ever want to "run through" life and miss what God intended for me. I "run through" life when I make my own paths, my own direction, my own way.

There is a great moment when you cease pursuing your own way and begin to recognize His path.

God help me to give up, "what I always thought I wanted to be" so that I can be what you want me to be.

Then it hit me.

The words that they were singing this morning really helped me. The song writer said, "I fix my eyes on you...the author of my fiath." When I fix my eyes on Him. I cease looking at myself and my agenda.

In this year of Sabbath rest, I wait for Him.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Just a thought.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Last night my wife and I went to the theatre at the University of Michigan's Flint Campus for a production of the Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare. The 2007-2008 season is at the midway point and we wanted to attend, not because we are Shakespeare afficionados, but because a young five year old boy that attends our church was in the play.

Sure enough, he came out on stage as the consummate professional that he is.
Five years old.

At that age I was trying to decide how to get an extra cookie after dinner. I was trying to stay up past my bedtime. This little guy was in a Shakespeare play on a University campus. Times they are a changin'.

The Winter's Tale tells the story of two kings whose friendship is torn apart by a midlife crisis of epic proportions. It is the story of time, repentance, suffering, deception, and forgiveness. And, oh by the way, Ronan our five year old friend was in it.

He was adorable.

Sitting in the theatre, I was trying to listen carefully as the Shakespearean English often distracted my attention away from the carefully crafted plot.

Then it hit me. A phrase. A simple sentence that arrested my attention.
Fumbling in the darkness, I reached for my pen.

"I like your silence, it the more shows off your wonder."

Writing those words in a quiet dark theatre gave me pause to think.
Can I be in awe and wonder and be talking at the same time?
Can I express wonder at what God is doing all around me and still be talking on and on?
I wonder if God ever says to me, "I like your silence, it the more shows off your wonder."

His Word always supercedes my word.
His power is made perfect in my weakness.
He says, "Be still and know that I am God."

Ronan, thanks for your work in The Winter's Tale. Shakespeare, thanks for penning those words centuries ago. God, thank you for your "gentle whisper" that makes me stand in silence.

How's the noise level in your life?


Friday, February 15, 2008


Sitting at the corner of Martin Luther King and Carpenter, my car, the Tracer Racer was paralyzed. Nothing. No sign of life. Dead.

After calling AAA I waited. The voice on the other end of the line said, "Somebody will be there in 45 minutes." Translated that means, "someone will be there when they arrive." So I sat. I waited.

20 minutes later Kurt showed up. In a gentle snow he attached the talons of the tow truck to my helpless car. It looked so small as it crawled up on the back of the flatbed tow truck.

Thinking that this little "incident" would cost several hundred dollars caused me to be distracted. Its funny how distractions can do just that. They distract us from the bigger picture, they drain our attention away from the important.

"What do you do for a living?" Kurt asked. I hate that question. It seems like it has a way of slotting you and preventing you from having any other conversations other than those related to your vocation.

Distracted by the impending costs for repairs dulled by filtering capacity. I told him what I do. He looked at me and said, "that's nice."

Then it hit me.

There was a bigger picture, a higher purpose, a grander scheme than my concern for the cost of my repair. So I talked to Kurt. He talked to me. He told me his story. He told me all the details as we rode over the increasingly snow covered road.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered Kurt was my new neighbor who moved in down the street from where I work. The conversation changed quickly. I invited him to come and visit. He seemed interested. We'll see what happens.

The cost of the repair? Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

Ron, the repair man, opened the trunk and pressed a reset button.

The car started. I left. I was thankful.

How can a car break down on the other side of town and be towed by a man who I never met before and be fixed by a repair man who was waiting for business to come in all on a snowy day?

I am not sure. But I am thankful for the 68 minute distraction that gave me an opportunity to wait on Him.

What do you do while you wait?

Just a thought!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


A reading from earlier this week took me back to my elementary school days. Recess was a great time to escape and run free on the playground behind Huddle Elementary School. For a few brief moments there was not a care in the world.

On special days the teacher would retrieve the sisal hemp rope hidden behind all of the book bags and coats in the closet at the back of the room. Announcing the rules of "tug of war" excited the passion of every 4th grade boy as we listened to her describe what the class was going to do during recess.

As I read, the author was describing what my elementary teacher did just before we went onto the playground.

In a tug of war everyone is pulling on the rope with all of their strength.

After several successful games, someone calls a timeout.

One of the contestants begins to rub his hands and spit into

the his palm to get a fresh grip on the rope.

Then it hit me. That's what I want to do. I want to get a "fresh grip."

That is a great metaphor for Sabbatical.

It's time to "unplug for a while." It's time to "let go of the rope." It is a time to "spit on your palms." It is a time to get a "fresh grip" on the call, and a "fresh grip" on the One who calls.

How's your grip?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


In a way, the best meetings are the ones where nobody is creative and nobody has any ideas about anything. People sit around, stare at the their notepads, and then, after a plausible amount of time has passed everyone leaves. Everybody's happy because nothing was demanded of them, and nobody was made to look bad in front of others.

- Douglas Coupland, J-Pod.

I went to a meeting last night. You know the kind of meeting that I am talking about. The kind of meeting where you have a good plan, a good strategy and a well rehearsed schedule.

Instead of a meeting we had a conversation.

It was a conversation about the church that I attend. There was laughter. There were a few weepy moments. There were stories. There were decisions reached by consensus. At the end of the meeting, people stayed around and chatted even though the snow was falling heavily throughout the meeting.

Standing there it became obvious that people cared deeply for one another and were basking in the glow of friendship.

Watching everyone interact made me feel great to be a part of a church that prizes conversations over conflict. I am glad to be part of a community that values people over possessions. I am glad to see the Kingdom unfolding rather than the promotion of our kingdoms.


Been to any good ones lately?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Recently I read these words and found them to be instructive and interesting...Every year in springtime a familiar ritual is repeated. Hundreds of grown men who have played baseball all their lives head to warmer climates in Florida and Arizona to practice the fundamentals of baseball for about six weeks.

Men who grew up with a bat and glove have instructors who teach them again how to bat, throw, pitch and field the ball. Day after day, for weeks on end, these men who get paid millions of dollars to play the game of baseball go back to the basics.

Hitting, fielding, running the bases-all the things that would seem like second nature to the players get their renewed attention. Every phase of the game is studied all over again. To some folks spring training seems like a waste of time. If they've played baseball all their lives, why don't they just take the field, have someone sing the National Anthem, have the umpire yell, "play ball!" and get started.

Why spring training every year?

If you ask the player why they head to spring training every year they'll assure you its not because they have forgotten what to do.

It's so they'll get better at what baseball players do. It's a return to the basics to get them ready for the long season ahead; so they'll be prepared; so they'll be able to give their best at what they've devoted their lives to doing.

In the Church, every year as spring approaches we begin the Lenten journey again. Not because we are novices and must be taught the basics for the first time, but because whoever we are, these are the basics that will sustain us for the long season ahead. These are the same fundamentals we rehearse year after year, for they are what makes us strong and prepared for the rigorous days to come.

You probably have already seen our Catholic brothers and sisters with the gray mark in the shape of the cross on their forehead.

In the early church ashes were sprinkled on the head of the penitents symbolically announcing their sorrow for sin.

I long to be a serious pilgrim who desires growth and a deepening journey with Him.

Someone said it this way..."Lent is the Gospel in motion...convincing, convicting and empowering the pilgrim with an invitation to journey.

I want the Gospel to be "in motion" in my life. To often I am enamored with the "emotion" of the Gospel when God is calling me to allow Him to move through me.

Lent is an invitation. Lent is a time to respond to His initiative. I want to RSVP ASAP...