Friday, August 14, 2009


This blog has moved to (And yes, that means I do intend to update it one of these months).

If you are looking for sermon discussion questions, click on the link above and locate the tab in the upper right hand corner of your screen that says "Discussion questions."

Friday, July 17, 2009


Food for thought:
We're not rejecting God; we just don't have time for him. We've lost
him in the blurred landscape as we rush to church. We don't struggle with
the Bible, but with the clock. It's not that we're too decadent; we're too
busy. We don't feel guilty because of sin, but because we have no time for
our spouses, our children, or our God. It's not sinning too much that's
killing our souls, it's our schedule that's annihilating us.
(Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, p. 96)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Constant Communication

Some time ago, I rolled up to a stop light on a late afternoon bike ride and and had the following encounter with a fellow cyclist.

Hello! she said. Her hands rested on the handlebars and she rested her weight on the bike's top tube--and stared straight ahead.

Hello, I replied, pleasantly surprised that she had given me more than a nod (but a little perplexed that she couldn't be bothered to look my way).

How are you?! She asked, with what seemed to be unnecessary enthusiasm and concern.

Oh, um, I'm fine. Beautiful day. How are you?

Hold on a second, she said. Some guy is trying to talk to me. I'll call you back in a second...

That's when I finally noticed the tiny gadget hooked over her ear. My face flushed as I put two and two together and realized that there was a good reason it sounded like she was talking to an old friend on the phone--she probably was. Even standing there at the intersection of Franklin and Alameda while enjoying a sunny afternoon on the bike, she was able to stay in touch.

Of course, her ability to do so is no longer a surprise to any of us. A friend updates his Facebook status from the ski lift. The woman in the airport pulls out her Blackberry and sends a quick email without ever sitting down. Members of congress update their constituents via their Twitter feeds even while listening (or pretending to listen) to the President speak. We are people who are in constant communication with one another.

A few weeks ago, a friend relayed a conversation she'd recently had with her eight-year-old daughter. I just love to pray, the little girl gushed. I only dream sometimes at night. Usually I just pray. And lots of times during the day, I don't even say 'Amen' because I don't want it to be over. I just want to keep talking to God all the time.
Here is a little girl who has something that many of us desire--she is in constant communication with her Creator. She, as much as anybody I know, seems to follow Paul's command: Pray without ceasing. Her life is a continuous conversation with her heavenly Father.
I wonder what will happen to that little girl--to her life of prayer--in a few years. What will happen she gets a Facebook account and a iPhone and a Twitter feed with her friends. Will she be able to stay in constant communication with her God--even while she's in constant communication with so many others?
Most of us would like to have it both ways. But I'm beginning to wonder if we can (or if that's wanting to have your cake and eat it too). Does the constant buzz of communication from cell phones and blog feeds and twitter updates leave us with enough space--enough silence--for us to speak to (and hear from!) our heavenly Father?
I'm not one to push giving up something for Lent (I often joke with people that I'm going to try to give up sin). But maybe a helpful experiment for some of us during this time of year would be to sign off for a few weeks--to let our communication with each other slide so that we can get back in touch with our God.
Edit (3.9.09): Apparently the Pope reads my blog :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lectionary Text

I stumbled across this poem by Debra Rienstra today in her (very good) book, So Much More. It's called "Lectionary Text" and is about what happens in her household the week before her husband has to preach. My wife will testify that she gets at least the first two paragraphs right. I pray the third will be accurate as well.

Lectionary Text
Once you invite me in, beware:
I toss you from your favorite chair,
I snip the daily news to shreds
And interrupt you in your bed.

By week's end you wish me away--
I drag around your thoughts all day.
You wrestle me down, chop and twist,
But I, with ancient art, resist.

Come Sunday, sweet as Spirit's dew
I gentle fall on folks, through you.
A Maddening mystery? Thus your part
To sink a word into a heart.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Good News or Old News?

"Restore unto me the joy of your salvation."
Psalm 51:12"

"Mind if I join you?"

The question came from the woman standing in the lift line next to me. The collar of her coat was pulled up tight against the cold and her goggles obscured much of her face. I glanced down at her, smiled, nodded, and we scooted forward in line. When our turn came, we plunked down in the chair and the lift swept us up the mountain. Within moments, the woman began to chatter away.

"Well," she said, "I really don't ski that much. My daughter--she's 26--she's the real skier in the family. Of course, she probably won't be doing much of it this year..."

The woman paused. Sensing that this was my cue to prod her along, I asked why.

"Well," she said, "She had climbing accident this summer. Terrible thing. She and some friends were taking the back route up Greys and Torrey's. A ledge snapped out from under her. She fell and broke her back..."

She paused again, giving me a moment to shake my head and cluck my tongue with the appropriate blend of shock and sympathy.

"But you know what?" She didn't pause this time--but leaned a little closer, letting me see the sparkle in her eyes as she spoke. "The doctors were able to perform some surgery--and they say she's going to be fine. In fact, she may very well be back on skis come March. Remarkable, isn't it?"

I've had a lot of ski lift conversations over the last few years--but there was something about this one that was different. I think it was the sense of urgency in the woman's voice, the impression she gave me that she just might burst if she didn't say something. She had some good news--and she just had to share.

Of course, I've got my own bit of good news. For starters, I believe that God so loves us--God so loves me, you, that woman on the ski lift and her daughter, too--that he paid the ultimate price (his own son!) so that we might enjoy a new life with him. It is good news. But even so, it didn't really cross my mind to grab that woman on the ski lift by the shoulders, to look her in the eye, and to declare to her the miracle that I have experienced. "Do you know about this Jesus? About the things that he did? ... Remarkable, isn't it?"

I suppose that if I had, I may very well have learned what it feels like to be stabbed by a ski pole. But even so, it bothers me that the thought never really occurred to me. It bothers me that I can't say with Paul (at least not often enough) that the love of Christ compels me to share the good news of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:14). It bothers me that, all too often, the good news seems to have been down graded to old news.
And so I lift a few words from King David for my prayer. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation. Remind me just how good the good news is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

MLK Day*

On the evening of November 4th, 2008, I sat on my friend's well-worn couch, watching CNN as the tally came in. Colorado goes blue, Missouri goes red, Ohio goes blue, Montana goes red. Finally, at around 9 pm, the race was called. My friend--much more passionate about these things than I--cheered and raised his beer glass in celebration.

Of course, he wasn't the only one celebrating. That night in Chicago's Grant Park, thousands gathered to celebrate the victory of their hometown hero. When Obama took the stage and delivered his solemn speech, the cameras pulled in close on the faces in the crowd--many of them black, many of them weeping. After the speech, the commentators noted (as they have many times since) that Obama's election carries special significance in United States--a country where, a generation or two ago, it was still an open question if black people should have the right to buses and diners and public education now elects a black man president. Remarkable, they said.

And undoubtedly, it is. But I'll admit--the significance was lost on me. It's not that I don't have a clue about where America has been. I've read Fredrick Douglas and Zora Neal Hurston and Martin Luther King. I've been to a town in Mississippi that still has a cinderblock wall running down the middle of it--a wall that divided the white part of that town from the black part for years. But all that seems like ancient history to me. It's so easy for me to put on the blinders--too shut out both the world and the darkened corners of my own heart--and assume that racism is nothing but a relic of an ancient past.

Of course, it's not. Last week, a friend in another corner of the country was praying with a group from his church. One man--a leader in his congregation--spoke up. He started well. Dear God, he said, be with our new President and Commander and Chief. My friend murmered his ascent. But then things took a turn. God, we do not like his politics, his attitude, his religion, or his color...

President Obama carries the hopes and expectations of many with him into office. And today, I (along with many others) add one to the list: my hope is that he will help us all confront the prejudice that lies within, that he will help us see not just how far we have come as a nation, but how far we have to go. And I hope that, somehow, God will use him to help us all take a step in the right direction.

*A week overdue.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Love of Jesus

Sleepless in Seattle was on again last weekend. And I'll admit--I watched it.

I'm not really sure why. I've probably seen it (or bits and pieces of it) three or four times before. Plus, I've seen You've Got Mail a time or two, and that's more or less the same movie. So I knew the plot line, knew the jokes, knew the happy ending. But I watched it anyway. I blame my wife and mother-in-law.

Towards the end of the movie, the Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) character wakes up one morning and discovers that his house is empty--his eight-year-old son, Jonah, has run away. Somehow, the little boy managed to board a plane and fly to New York (by himself!) where he must navigate the bustling streets--alone.

I don't remember what my reaction to this scene was the first (or second, or third) time I saw it. Probably deep skepticism (how could that kid even find his way to the airport?!). But this time, I couldn't help but clutch my wife's arm and hold my breath as the desperate father (Hanks) boards his own plane to New York and then sprints through the streets of the city in search of his son. And I couldn't help but let out a huge sigh of relief when that Father finds his son--when he's able to pick him up in his arms and squeeze him tight. I was captivated by it all in a way that I never had before--because before, I was not a father. Before, it had not fully occurred to me just how terrible it would be to lose a son.

I suppose it's stating the obvious to say that I love my son--a lot. I imagine I would do anything necessary to protect him and keep him safe. And I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one.

That hit me when Adrian baptized this summer. I recall being deeply moved when Pastor Joy pronounced the blessing over him. Adrian Paul, for you, Jesus came into the world. For you he took on flesh. For you he lived. For you, he died. For you he rose again... The words hit me someplace deep inside and I suddenly understood--with new clarity--that there is someone who loves my son even more than I do. The love of Jesus for my son (for me, for you) is more profound and perfect than any earthly father's could ever be. I find that fact to be wonderfully assuring.

But there's a flip side. It's not just the way Jesus loves my child. It's the way I love Jesus back.
One of the lectionary readings for this week is from Matthew 10:34-39. It includes these words:

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of
and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy
of me.

I do not like those words. At all. I want Jesus to love my son more than I can. But how can I love Jesus more than I love my son? My son--whom I can see and touch and hold? My son--whose soft cries float down the stairs, even as I type this? My son--for whom I would give up my own life? It seems like too much to ask. I fear that it is impossible.

But I pray that God would make it possible for me. I pray, not that he would make me love my son less, but that he would make me love his Son more.