Monday, June 30, 2008


Hanging in my office is a picture that haunts me everytime I look at it. The original painting by Rembrandt hangs in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia and is entitled, The Return of the Prodigal. Painted in 1662, it captures the love of the waiting father and the distance of his sons.

Yesterday I shared both the painting and the story by the Master Storyteller found in Luke 15.

I posed the question....who is the prodigal?

Both sons distanced themselves from their father's concerns in different ways.

Both sons resented their father's control of the farm and felt limited in what they could do.

Both sons seemed to prefer hanging out with friends rather than time at the fathers table.

I posed the question...who is the prodigal?

Several years ago I read Henri Nouwens book, The Return of the Prodigal Son influenced by his time in The Hermitage looking at Rembrandt's painting. He says Jesus is the prodigal son...

Stunning.....Consider his words....

"He left the house of his heavenly Father, came to a foreign country, gave away all that he had, and returned through his cross to his Father's home. All of this he did, not as a rebellious son but as the obedient son, sent out to bring home all the lost children of God

Jesus is the prodigal son of the prodigal Father who gave away everything the Father had entrusted to him so that I could, so that you could, so that we could become like him and return with him to his Father's house. It is an example of extravagant grace."

What an example of "extravagant grace."

Friday, June 27, 2008


Today I am in Pennsylvania.

I looked this afternoon for a connection that will allow me to get onto the internet. The little community where we are staying has very few places where you can access free wi-fi. At first it was a little disconcerting not being able to gather e-mail and research topics, but as time passed it was liberating not to be "constantly connected."

I am dependent on being connected (to the internet). It is a lifeline to a wealth of resources that enable me to function daily in the work that I do.

Then it caused me to think.

Am I connected?

Am I "constantly connected?"

I am not talking about the internet. I am thinking about a different connection.

I want to be connected to God so that I can recognize His activity in my life and the lives of those around me.

Finally this afternoon we went into a little coffee shop on Main Street and found a wireless signal that allowed access to the web. It required a purchase of liquid libations. As soon as we paid our bill the girl behind the counter handed me a post-it note with a series of numbers and letters written in pen.

Voila! We were flooded the screen...people needing responses swamped my feeds bombarded my home page....spam overflowed....headlines demanded my attention. All that in the first few moments of being connected.

That burst of activity made me weary. But then again, I asked for it.

Being connected places great demands on one's life. Being connected requires something.

The only way to survive is to make certain that we are "constantly connected" to Him

I love these words from Matthew's gospel...."In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part." Matthew 6:14

I am committed to being connected to this God of Grace...24-7.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I was zipping along the highway late Tuesday afternoon as I was returning from Wapello Iowa. My travels had taken me to areas ravaged by the flooding in the midwest and I saw first hand the devastation caused by raging river torrents.

Back to zipping along the highway....Out of the corner of my eye a billboard caught my attention. I slowed down to read it and reached for a scrap piece of paper on the front seat. I wanted to write down exactly what it said on the huge billboard along the interstate highway.

Great Location....Amazing Opportunities

Then it hit me....that is really true! I can't remember what the advertisement was for or what product was being pitched. I was just struck by the slogan.

Great Location...Amazing Opportunities

When we grasp grace we recognize that any place where we are is a Great Location. When we are grasped by grace we face Amazing Opportunities.

So, I am thinking about making some grace signs and posting them to remind me that God's grace is all around me and that He is enough.

It has been about 48 hours since I saw the sign along the road. The impact is just as great today as it was when I saw it.

The apostle Paul writing in Colossians says, Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. 4:5

That takes grace....that is an evidence of grace....and it makes all things new!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


It is early morning and I am sitting in the basement of a home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I departed from our home en route to the heartland of America.

She begins two weeks of service with Nazarene Disaster Response as a mental health care professional. 24 hours before we arrived we had no idea that this morning we would awaken in another area of the country devastated by flooding.

Although I showed pictures of Cedar Rapids in our Sunday gathering, I did not expect to be sitting here this morning. God works in mysterious ways.

All of my life I have gone places and my family has accompanied me. Yesterday I realized that my daughter was going someplace and I was accompanying her. It made me proud to know that she is following God's grace in her life.

She begins this morning working with "first responders" who are already weary from working long hours and those who have lost everything. She will work long hours counseling and encouraging others.

Why am I here?

Oh, I forgot to mention, the reason I am here is to live in the "unforced rhythms" of His grace while I look for a place to serve.

Today I will go to an area that was inundated by 12 foot of water. It is a community that has suffered great loss of homes and property. I know that I have nothing to give except what He gives me today. I am going there with one simple question in my mind. "What can I do to remind people there that God's grace is "enough" in times like these?

It is funny to think that you don't have to drive halfway across the country to live with that same question.

In a few minutes I will head out the door. Another day...another adventure.

In the early days of television there was a little phrase that the announcer would say as one program ended and another began. In a deep warm voice, he would say, "Stay Tuned"

He is saying that today to me and I'm lovin' it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


On Saturday evening we went to a Relay for Life Event. It was inspiring to see the number of people walking to raise money for cancer research.

In simple terms Relay for Life is a life changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people to...

Celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer.
Remember loved ones lost to the disease.
Fight Back against a disease that takes too much.

Cancer is prevalent. The cure is closer today than it was when cancer first entered the vernacular of language.

Today I learned of another person who succumbed to a growing tumor in her brain. She bravely fought the battle and was faithful to the end of her young life.

I was sorry to hear of this family's loss and to know that life will never be the same again. Yet, I heard in her son's voice a sense of optimism that his mother was no longer in pain and safe in the presence of the One who created her.

Watching the walkers on Saturday evening I was reminded that everyone has a story. Some were survivors, some were caregivers, some carried the dreaded disease in their body and yet they were all united in a common mission.

It was a valuable lesson to me. No matter where we are in life, regardless of the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we can be united in mission.

Those that were walking on Saturday evening clearly understood that they are a community called to a common mission serving a common purpose.

It was inspiring to observe. Their gift of walking was an encouragement for me to continue walking toward the mission that God has given me.

How is your walk these days? If you continue on the path you are on, where will you end up?

Just a thought.....

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Today is the first day of summer.

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I enjoyed a parade, a high school graduation party, hot dogs on the grill, and a car cruise in a neighboring community.

The sunny afternoon brought back childhood memories from summers gone by.

Here are my top five memories from when I was a kid.

1. Long bike rides through the little community that I grew up in. It tasted like freedom,

2. Fishing in the creek at the lower end of town. I can still smell the water.

3. Catching fire flies after the sun set.

4. Trips to the local ice cream parlor.

5. Listening for the screen door slamming at dusk. That was the signal that it was time to come in the house.

Henry James was right when he said....

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."

Summer is here, and I'm lovin' it...

Friday, June 20, 2008


Several days ago I made a trek over to Borders to feed my brain. The ritual is pretty simple. Find a place to sit, plop down my bag, order something hot to drink, and look for the most recent issues of the magazines I love to read.

First Things is one of my favorites. It is billed as a "Journal of Religion, Culture and Public Life" and contains a wellspring of thoughts about today's modern day ethos.

While perusing its pages an advertisement for Thomas Aquinas College in California caught my attention. It simply read..."the future never needed the past more than it does today."

I really believe that.

My mind wandered off to a little book that I read a couple of years ago. The title of the book is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborn.

He writes..."New prophets are rising up to try to change the future, not just predict it. There is a movement bubbling up that goes beyond cynicism and celebrates a new way of living, a generation that stops complaining about the church it see and becomes the church it dreams of." p. 24.

The past informs the present and the road to the future runs through the past. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says, "there is nothing new under the sun."

I often hear people reminiscing about "the good ole days." I think they are referring to 50, 60 or 70 years ago when they talk about those days. Seldom do I hear anyone talking about the past in terms of centuries gone by.

I wonder if we really are aware of the ancient paths and what they have to offer us today? Even though the Apostles Creed is found in many church hymnals, I wonder how many could recite it and know its implications for our day.

Here are some writers who have helped me to understand that the past can powerfully speak to the future.

The Patristic Period gave us Augustine, Justin Martyr and a host of others who contributed to the faith.

The Dark Ages gave us Gregory the Great who kept Christianity alive at a difficult time.

The Golden Age of Mysticism gaves us Bernard of Clairveaux, Francis of Assisi, and Thomas Aquinas

The Reformation Period gave us Martin Luther, John Calvin, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross

The 17th Century gave us Jeremy Taylor, John Bunyan, Francois Fenelon, and Madame Jeanne Guyon.

The 18th Century produced John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd and William Law

The 19th Century brought the works of Soren Kierkegaard, Leo Tolstoy, and others to light.

The 20th Century introduced us to Evelyn Underhill, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Frank Laubach, E. Stanley Jones and George Buttrick.

I am standing in the streams of the past, facing the currents of the present, and searching for wellsprings that will quench the thirst of future generations.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The headline in today's USA Today was interesting...."Boomers in the Mood to Give Back to Society."

Upon closer inspection, the article outlines the results of a survey indicating that "millions of Boomers are either quitting their old jobs or coming out of retirement to pursue new careers that not only give them personal meaning but also contribute to society."

The author of the article uses a phrase that I have never heard before.

Encore Careers.

These are careers that are defined as those that, "combine income, meaning, and social purpose."

At a time when the trend seems to be moving toward earlier retirement, Encore Careers are emerging as a new way of contributing to society.

There is a great example in the article. It is the story of Phil Borges who is now 65 years old. He quit his orthodontist practice to become a photographer. He then used his photography skills and founded a non-profit organization that uses digital storytelling to connect children worldwide.

The article caused me to begin thinking about the growing number of boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) who have so much to offer society. The community I live in is full of retirees that fit this demographic. Unfortunately, many of them are content to sit and drink coffee and swap stories.

I have a friend who retired at in his early 50's with an IRA and 401k fully funded. He and his wife have no financial worries. They have houses here and in the sunny south. They are content to watch tv, eat at restaurants, and criticize society, church, and others. My heart breaks when I think that they are equally talented as Phil Borges and have so much to offer. They would be poster kids for an "Encore Career." But alas, they are mired in the malaise of mediocrity.

The church would take on new life if boomers would embrace "Encore Careers."

Civic organizations would emerge with new life if boomers would contribute through "Encore Careers."

Non-Profits would burgeon and thrive if boomers would re-direct their energies toward these organizations.

There are 79 million boomers alive today. No, let me re-phrase that. There are 79 million boomers in existence. The ones that are alive are living in their "Encore Career"

Rock on, Phil Borges and Boomers everywhere!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


It's Tuesday afternoon and I am digging for nuggets of truth in the pages of Scripture. I am searching for traces and evidences of God's grace in the Word. I am looking for places where it is apparent that the rhythms of God's grace are pulsing even though people are completely aware of it.
I am looking for those places that suggest His grace that "goes before" us.

In my reading this week, I read these words that challenged me to think more deeply about this.

"Long before we were able to identify God's presence or focus on His deeds, He was active. No one is a stranger to God. Long before we ever moved toward Him, God has already moved toward us. Even when we do respond, He makes the response possible." A Dangerous Hope, p. 49.

This is an incredible description of the "grace that goes before."

I wonder how many people really believe that even before they are able to indentify God's presence that He is active in their life?

I wonder how many people really believe that long before they ever took a step toward Him, He has been walking in their direction?

I wonder how many people realize that when they do respond to His grace that it is possible because He has made it possible?

Here is the verse that illuminates the concept for me....

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and
the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.
Saving is all his idea, and all his work.
All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish!
We don't play the major role.
If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing!
No, we neither make nor save ourselves.
God does both the making and saving.
He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does,
the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (The Message)

I am looking forward to being with the worshipping community on Sunday and another opportunity to be a "grace-tracer" in a world that lives under the tyranny of phrases like "try harder," "work smarter" and "do more."

I am living in the grace of this moment, enjoying the thought of His grace that is ahead, and basking in the idea that His Grace is preparing the way for what He wants to do.

Jump into the pool of His Extravagant Grace!

Monday, June 16, 2008


For Father's Day I received a gas grill from my family.

Then I encountered those frightening words....Some Assembly Required.

28 pages of instructions. 170 pieces. Estimated Assembly Time - 35-45 minutes, and Voila! A CharBroil Grill emerges.

So this afternoon I opened the box and began to assemble my new grill.

One and a half hours later I had worked my way through 20 pages and asembled about 168 or 169 pieces. But hey! it stands up, the lid closes and the fire is coming out of the appropriate openings.

I was pleased with my efforts and was revelling in the thought that I had saved my family money on assembly charges.

"How much did it cost to have the grill assembled at the store where you bought it?" I asked.

"Nothing. assembly was free," my wife said.


"Yeah it was free."

"You have got to be kidding."

I grumbled and then completed assembling the grill. Imagine my delight when I fired up the grill and plopped the chunk of London Broil over the fire.

I learned three lessons this afternoon.

1. "Some Assembly Required" is never simple
2. Instructions are difficult to understand whether they are in English, Spanish,or Chinese
3. Nothing beats a steak ouside on the grill.

Stop by and check out my new grill...

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Today was a beautiful day in downtown Flint. Yesterday I was praying for rain, but today turned out to be a gorgeous Father's Day and so we headed off to the Art Fair.

There were all kinds of art on display and we sauntered through each of the displays and admired the incredible talent of the artisans gathered under the huge shade trees. It was fun to be outside and to enjoy other people's creativity.

In my reading this week I ran across an interesting word. The word is "simplexity" The definition is, "the possible complementary relationship between complexity and simplicity."

Some of the art was derived from simple material arranged in a complex way. Simplexity.

Wandering through the exhibits, I thought about that word and how it can be used to describe life.

So much of life is simple and yet it is complex. Often times we walk through a complex world and find that simplicity eludes us like ice cubes melting through our hands on a warm summer day.

Simplexity. I want to have a simple faith in a world that clamors for complex solutions to problems we encounter on the journey. I want to have a simple faith in the face of difficult moments. There is a way that a pilgrim can live that both recognizes the simple and complex and yet relies on the hand of the Almighty.

Walking today on the lawn of the Flint Institute of Art gave me the opportunity to reflect on my journey.

Here is a motto that has been a GPS verse guiding my journey..."A simple life in the Fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches." Proverbs 15:16

Headaches on the horizon? You can be sure of it! The solution? "A simple life in the Fear-of-God!"


Saturday, June 14, 2008


This weekend the NASCAR circuit makes a stop in the Irish Hills of Michigan. Michigan International Speedway plays host to cars hurtling down the backstretch at over 180 MPH. The "Big Dance" takes place on Sunday afternoon around 2 PM.

I have worked weekends now for over 25 years and cannot attend car races on Sunday afternoon. I have been very content to get home on Sunday afternoon in time to watch the thundering machines rocket around the track. I also am old enough to remember when you didn't turn the TV on Sunday afternoons, so I am thankful to live in a time when I can watch the races.

Then it hit me....A Great Idea!

What would happen if I prayed for rain on this Sunday afternoon? If it rained the race would be re-scheduled for Monday and I could go and see the race in person. So I have been praying for rain. Sorta selfish I admit.

There will be nearly 100,000 fans at Michigan International Speedway this weekend. I am not sure how many "prayer warriors" will be there, but I am sure some of them have prayed for a sun-drenched weekend to enjoy the race.

Here is the prickly situation.

I am praying for one thing....heavy rain. Others are praying for another thing....sun! I wonder who God will answer?

The temptation for me is to say, "I am sure God will answer my prayer because (fill in the blank). Equally tempting is the thought, "Surely God will not answer their prayer because (fill in the blank).

I really don't know what God will do on Monday, and that's OK. He is God and I am not. But I sure would love to see the race in person.

Have you ever prayed one way and met another person praying the opposite way?

Which was it? Rain or Sun?

This conundrum has made me laugh today...enjoy life today!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Today I was having lunch with my district superintendent and his assistant. It was unexpected. I was having lunch with a friend and just as we were finishing they walked in and invited me to sit with them while they ate their meal.

We bantered back and forth about all kinds of subjects. We speculated about who is going where and who will fill this job and that job. It was fun thinking about the future and what it might hold.

Then my district superintendent used a word that I have been thinking about ever since he said it. The word he used was "unexpected." He mentioned that we never know what tomorrow will hold.

Little did we know that while we were discussing that word, Tim Russert of Meet the Press fame collapsed at work while doing voiceovers for his Sunday program. He was 58 years old. Unexpected. Tonight his family is stunned by the unexpected.


I remember several years ago hearing news of the passing of a college president who died at age 57 from a brain aneurysm. The community he served and the family he loved experienced the unexpected. Dr. Cecil Paul was a great man.

I recall learning of the death of a former district superintendent from cancer that invaded his liver and other vital organs. Even though he had suffered for months, the news of his death at age 61 was unexpected. Dr. Chuck Zink was a great man.

Today, I have been reflecting on the lives of those who have gone before me and am grateful for their contribution.

As Wesley once said, "He who governed the world before I was born shall take care of it likewise when I am dead. My part is to improve the present moment. And together, with God's blessing, we can."

These men "improved the present moment" that they lived in. They believed that the God who governed the world before they arrived on the scene continues to take care of it in this moment.

There is nothing unexpected about that fact.

God, help me to be "fully present in this moment."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Growing up in America we have been taught about capitalism and the work ethic....we have been told that 'the early bird gets the worm'....we have heard people say, 'no pain, no gain'...'there's no such thing as a free lunch', 'you get what you pay for' and 'people get what they deserve'....

I am in the middle of a sermon series entitled Grace Anatomy and I have been struck by the fact that many of the ideas that I learned growing up seem to be "anti-grace."

Now before you jump to any conclusions about how I was raised or the church that I grew up in, let me assure you that both contributed greatly to my early faith development.

What I am reflecting on are some prevalent ideas and forces that have crept into the life of the church and mitigated against a healthy understanding of grace.

Most of the ideas in today's culture suggest that we are "self-made" and that we are the "captains of our destiny." We are told that if we "work hard enough and smart enough" we will get ahead.

I was reading a sermon this afternoon in which the preacher made the statement that solidified a fresh understanding of grace in my life.

He said, "We have to learn to set aside merit and ability so that grace can find a place in our life."

The apostle Paul put it this way, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..." Ephesians 2:8

Grace is everywhere. It is abundant. It is sufficient. It is enough. It is prevalent. It is there before we get there. And yet I often go about life as if I am a "solo pilot" on a maiden voyage.

"Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling."

Somebody ought to make a song out of those words...they are powerful. I know...I know....there already is a song with those words.

Sometimes all the things in my hands blocks my view of the cross. That's when I am most in need of His grace.

I am getting ready for Sunday....I am basking in His Grace....and lovin' it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The headlines were stunning. Plastered on the front page of the Flint Journal were these words, "Long-Time Parishioners Mourn Closings of Three Flint Churches."

Citing a "steady bleed in attendance and increasing financial woes," the bishop notified the churches that they will close by August 1, 2008.

One member said, "We knew this was coming, but we were told we'd probably have six months to prepare. Instead we have six weeks. I feel like we've been cheated. How do you prepare to close a church in six weeks?"

Times are tough.

Monthly our Leadership Team meets to pray, plan and prepare for the future of the ministry in the church I attend. At the top of the meeting agenda is a short paragraph.

What would our community say if our church closed down?
What would their response be?

Would anybody know and if they knew how long would it be before they

recognized we were closed?
We ask people to do three things a week here.

Come to a worship service to fall more in love with God and His Word.

Go to a small group to love others in community.

Serve in a ministry to impact others.

Simple Church, Rainer & Geiger, p.40-41

Times are tough.

There is a moment in the life of every church when a congregation must decide whether their ministry is going to be about those that populate the pews or about reaching out to others. At the risk of being to we answer that question may determine whether a "closed sign" hangs on the door or whether the doors remain open.

Is your church open?

Monday, June 9, 2008


Brad Pitt in a recent interview said, “While acting is my career, architecture is my passion.” Say what?

It caused me to think. Is it possible to have a career (something that pays the bills) and is it possible to have a passion (something that geeks you) at the same time?

It caused me to think. I wonder how many people that I meet everyday are in the middle of their career but a long way from their passion?

It caused me to think. Is it possible to have both career and passion together?

Then it hit me. Brad Pitt has made boatloads of money in his movie career, now he is working in New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward designing and building homes for those who were impacted by Katrina.

His newest project? Brad Pitt will help design an eco-friendly 800 room luxury hotel in Dubai.

I wonder if it is easier to do what you are passionate about when you don’t have to worry about paying college bills, car insurance, or the price of gas?

All of this has got me to thinking. Would my life look any different if I decided to follow my passion rather than my paycheck? Would my life look any different if I decided to follow my heart rather than the heat of the moment? Would my life look any different if I covenanted to follow my calling rather than embrace convenience?

Brad Pitt? I am not a big fan. But one thing is obvious to me, he is following his passion, serving with his heart and living out his calling in a world that chases paychecks, operates in the heat of the moment and embraces convenience.

What does your world look like?

Sunday, June 8, 2008


I am sitting down at the end of a great day...things unfolded at a rapid pace all day and now I am reflecting on the day and all of its activities.

I was going through some old files and ran across a note that I received from a person who was transitioning from one ministry assignment to another. He had a rough time in the place where he served. He felt like he was always "rowing upstream" against a tidal wave of dissent.

I am not sure why he even wrote the note to me in the first place, but I was struck by the scripture verse that he cited at the beginning of his note. Here it is....

“Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” John 3:20-21

Following the scripture he highlighted a phrase....“Addicted to denial and illusion…”

Then he wrote these words...."Wow. It’s one thing to be addicted to a substance or act, but then to become addicted to the denial of these problems is something I never thought of."

We live in a world driven by addictions and denial. (My words.) The remedy? "Working and living in truth and reality."

At the close of the day I "welcome God-light" into my life. When the "God light" breaks through my darkness I can begin to recognize the "God-work" for what it is.

All of this is made possible by His grace in my life. I am not sure where my friend is who wrote the note to me. I have lost track of him...God hasn't. I hope that he has experienced some "God-light" illuminating his path.

Here's the challenge...."get in the God-light" and enjoy the journey!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Mark Twain said it well.

"If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way." That sums up a lot of lessons about life and the fact that sometimes learning takes place under less than ideal circumstance.

In my reading this week I ran across a sentence that made me smile. "We could learn a lot from crayons, some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."

Learners understand they will meet some sharp people, some pretty people, some dull ones, some bright ones and even some with weird names. But effective learners know that we all have to live together in the same box.

I want to be a life-long learner.

Although there are times when I feel like I am "diagonally parked in a parallel parking world" I continue to desire growth that comes from continual learning.

What are you learning today?

From one crayon to another...don't miss today's lessons.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I have a friend who serves on the Campus Crusade for Christ staff at the University of Connecticut. Monthly she and her husband send a newsletter telling the story of those whose lives have been touched by the Gospel. They serve tirelessly to impact young people's lives with the Message of Hope.

They are working with a generation who is exploring new found freedom as they escape the bounds of home and parents. Some of them experiment with things that are new and enticing. Others enter into profligate lifestyles sending them into a downward spiral.

In the August 20, 2007 newsletter in an article entitled, "What God is Doing" they wrote these words. "So many times their freedom ends up imprisoning them in lifestyles they don't find fulfilling and yet they can't seem to escape."

Those are haunting words I copied into my journal after I read them late last summer.

Strangely enough, these are words that can be used to describe all kinds of people, not just college students at the University of Connecticut.

E. M. Forster wrote words that sparkle with truth when he penned, "we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so that we can have the life that is waiting for us."

My friends who serve on the Campus Crusade staff are trying to help students "let go" of their plans so that they can embrace "His plan." That is not a bad definition of evangelism. Seems rather simple and yet so profound.

Jesus was matter-of-fact: "Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, 'Go jump in the lake'—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it's as good as done. That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything. Mark 11:22

What do you need to "let go" of and what do you need to "embrace?" Your answer will determine the trajectory of your life's story.

Just a thought.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Yesterday I was reading and ran across a statement from C.S. Lewis that grabbed my attention. I share it today because of the power of his words.

Writing in Mere Christianity, Lewis referrred to the world as “enemy-occupied territory” and Christianity as “the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great sabotage.”

I guess that makes me an "undercover agent" who lives life out in the open. Quite a paradox when you think about it. Subversive, yet overtly open.

It made me wonder how to live a kingdom life like C. S. Lewis described. There are times when I think I have a grasp on what that means, and times when I don't have a clue. I do know that it is possible because I have seen momentary glimpses of His grace that remind me that is the kind of life I am called to live.

This type of life is a life lived in the land of excellence. I am not using that phrase in the busines sense of "management by objective" and "win-win" yada-yada-yada.

I like what Quinn says in his provocative book entitled, Deep Change. He says, "The land of excellence is safely guarded from unworthy intruders. At the gates stand two fearsome sentries – risk and learning. The keys to entrance are faith and courage."

To be an "overt undercover agent" I must be willing to have faith to address the risks and courage to learn if I am ever to walk in the "land of excellence."

You may be thinking..."I wonder what the 'land of excellence' means?" From where I sit this morning I would define the "Kingdom of God" as the "land of excellence." Not a bad definition.

Walk about the land today and enjoy the scenery, you are participating in the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Wow! Finally! At last we have nominees for the fall election.

One is "the" nominee for the Republican party. The other is the "presumptive"nominee for the Democratic party.

What is the difference between "the" and "presumptive?"

If you are "the" person, that means that you are seen as the "real thing" and confirmed as such. If you are "presumptive" that means that you are what you are based on probability.

Technically speaking, both candidates are the "presumptive" nominees for their respective parties. It is interesting that the Republican party is marching forward with a candidate they perceive to be "the" person to lead their party. While the Democratic candidate is labeled as "presumptive"

Now I am not making any kind of judgment on either candidate. I am just intrigued by the monikers that describe those running for President of the United States.

Would I rather be "the" person or the "presumptive" person?

Here is my thought.

I want to be "the" person rather than the "presumptive" person. I am not speaking in political terms. I am speaking in Kingdom terms.

I am called to be a person after God's heart, not a person based on the probability of someone else's opinion. To many people live based on what others say about them or in the fear of how others will perceive them.

The presidential election process will begin and drag on throughout the summer and fall. 150 days from now we will elect a new president.

The candidates will move from "the" and "presumptive" status to Presidential status.

I will be glad when it is over. In the meantime I am seeking to be "the" person He wants me to be. I am shedding the garments of presumption, consumption and assumption so that I can follow Him with all my heart.

Just some thoughts that crossed my mind this morning...What do you think?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


That is a great word...It is a word that literally means, "a visible manifestation of a deity."

A "visible manifestation."

I am not sure if I really understand that concept. We serve a God who is unseen and yet there are times He shows up and reveals Himself.

Shaking hands with people from New Life church on Sunday afternoon gave me the opportunity to experience a theophany. God manifested Himself in individuals who stood in line to eat lunch following their service on the East Side of Flint.

I feel a little like Jacob in the Old Testament who dreamt of angels on a stairway to heaven. It could have been that he ate something he shouldn't have eaten before drifting off to sleep. It could be that his body was sleeping but his mind was in overdrive. In either case, God showed up.

He wakes from his dreamy sleep and exclaims, "surely the Lord is in this place-and I did not know it." Genesis 28:16

Am I the only one that recognizes the presence of the Lord 20 minutes after He shows up? Am I the only one that realizes His grace looking back on a situation rather than sensing it in the moment that it is happening?

A theophany is the realization that, "surely the Lord is in this place...."

It is one thing to allow ourselves to look at God, but it is another thing to allow God to look back at us. Grace makes both possible.

Truth be told, there have been many more times where I have said like Jacob, "surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it."

I am trying to cultivate a renewed sense of "God's presence and grace" in my life. I am praying that when His presence and grace are close by, I will recognize them.

Here are a several questions that haunt me as I think about the story of Jacob and the escalator of angels.

Do I really believe that God's grace still works in the lives of people who are running away from Him?

Do I really believe that God's grace still pursues those when they pursue their own way?

Do I really beleive that God's grace still finds people when they have lost their way?

Do I really beleive that God's grace illuminates the darkest places of life?

The answer is Yes!

Jacob was right when he said, "surely the presence of the Lord is in this place..." How we respond to that fact shapes our understanding of grace.

Just a thought as I journey through the "unforced rhythms of his grace."

Monday, June 2, 2008


I love to read stories and have often thought about the task of outlining creative stories. I ran across the following and thought it might be an encouragement to those who long to tell and write great stories.

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

by: Portia Nelson

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost…

I am helpless, It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place but, It isn’t my fault.

It takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Nuf' said...

Keep thinking, creating and writing!