Saturday, July 31, 2010

the invisible bird part 2

Although she assured us that she was not, the rest of the family had a lot of fun thinking my wife was crazy for a day. Read yesterday's post now if you have not done so and come back here after you have. Josh chimed in, asking the timeless question, "did she hear the invisible bird sing?"

So we have resolved the mystery. We have a wonderful gal who does a bit of cleaning at our house on Friday. This is needed since my wife travels and no one else who lives here knows how to pick anything up. Anyway, I hear her call my me: "Pastorrrrr...........please come here, there is a creature!!"

I go in and check it out and sure enough, there it is. It has crawled underneath the cross leg of a table and wedged itself into a spot that is about two inches tall. I hate to admit what happened next, but please understand that I cannot have this thing loose in our home. My wife would kill me if it takes flight again.
I get a broom. She pulls the table out of the way. I pin it down. It goes to heaven. That is the short version. We take a couple of pictures. Are you ready for this?

I assume that it took refuge one night in a fireplace vent and then crawled in through the fireplace grate. Nice.

We are going to give my wife another chance.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, July 30, 2010

the invisible bird

I am across town picking up a mattress. Kids going off to college. We found a good bed sale. I am talking to the sales person. The phone rings. It's the wife. She is frantic. She has been buzzed by a bird four times in the house. Or maybe it was a bat.

I grin. She is hiding in her bedroom and won't comeout until I get home. I take my time.

When I get home, I check every inch of the house. No bird, no bat, no wasps. She must be hallucinating. Scott comes home. He checks the house. Nothing. The cats are lounging. If there was a bird in the house, they would be all over that. If a fly gets in the house they chase it until they catch it and eat it. If there was anything in the house, they would be on point.

So we are going to keep an eye on my wife, why don't you watch out for the imaginary bird.

It's a beautiful day in God's world be sure to see the good.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I am entitled to that. I deserve it. I want it. It should be mine.

Our country promises us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Interesting that they put the word "pursuit" in there. No guarantees. No entitlement.

Over the years we have come to define happiness as "having more stuff." Entitlement is a disease that I see in the teenager who wants their parents to buy them an I-phone. I see it in Lindsey Lohan. Unfortunately, I occasionally see it in myself. In fact, it is probably there, within me, more often than I do actually see it.

The Christian faith does not promise us stuff. It does promise us a relationship, the results of which are love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Hope in this life and a place in God's heavenly home. But the joy of the heavenly home is not about the idea of a mansion, it is about being with God for eternity. Relationship. With God. Brings joy.

What are you pursuing in your life? What are you after? What do you expect to make you happy? What are you investing your time, talent and treasure in? Are those things letting you down? And Jesus says, "come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

unconditional love

I love you. Forever. Nothing that you can do or say will ever change that. I may have to withdraw for a spell so that you can learn to take responsibility for your life, but I will always love you.

Love is doing the right thing, even when it brings discomfort to the one that you love. Love is ultimately about wholeness, not comfort.

I wish for each of you, at least one person in your life that loves you unconditionally. A friend. A cousin. A spouse. Someone that says, I will never leave you. For each of us, God is that person.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the wounded dog

My daughter is looking for a used car. If you know of one that would be good for a college age kid, please give me a call.

Today from 4-10pm I will be working at 7th and Sterling in Sugar Creek at the Hillcrest transitional housing property. If you want to help paint, let me know.

The wounded dog. The wounded dog curls up in the corner. He has a hard time falling asleep because he is startled by every little noise. His sleep is fitful, because he dreams of times past when nameless faceless humans were chasing him and striking him. He is uncomfortable in his new home because he is not sure that people are to be trusted. Kids scare him too, so his life has been a journey from home to foster home to animal shelter to foster home and so on. Many wounded dogs end up being euthanized because they just can't adjust to a normal family.

They don't know what to do with a kind touch. They enjoy a back scratch, but it is so hard to get used to, because their mind has been trained to fear human touch. People that love the wounded dog feel sorry for him. They want to help him and care for him, but he just has a lot of trouble responding positively to kindness.

The wounded dog. The wounded dog is some of us. Hurt as a kid, many humans live out their lives hiding, fearful, or snapping at others. If you are one of them, we offer you true friendship. Love that will not be withdrawn. Christ. The grace of Jesus Christ. In time, Jesus makes all things better.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

love hurts

Love hurts. It just does. There is an inseparable connection between love and pain. We usually only think of love as a joyful thing, but sometimes, love hurts.

Someone you love dies. Something that you love goes away. Someone that you love leaves the church. Someone that you love is in trouble.

And you hurt.

That is just the way it is. If you didn't love them, it wouldn't hurt. So I just remind myself that this kind of hurt is ok. The only way to get rid of it is to stop loving and no one wants to do that.

Love hurts. And it is still a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

hillcrest pt. 2

Tuesday afternoon and evening will be Hillcrest day for me and a few others. From 4pm-10pm I will be at the Hillcrest site in Sugar Creek at 7th and Sterling. Painting, trim work, and removing a floor.

If you can help, let me know. Kim, Jamie, Doug and Ann, thank you for your offer and I hope you can still make it. Anyone else, let me know.

If you cannot help on Tuesday at Hillcrest, please make a point to help someone, somewhere during that time. Heck, we should do that every day.

Hope to see you at the Lord's house today.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Yesterday. Yesterday I am bummed out. Random reasons. Dumb little things that I am worried about and feeling crummy about.

Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, here I am at, Camp Granada, camp is very entertaining, and they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.

I received an invite to help someone out. It was totally voluntary and not something that I should do because I am a pastor. If I chose to do it, it would be because it was a good thing to do.

I thought of ten reasons why I was too busy. Then I looked at how I was feeling about the day. Feeling crummy and being worried. I realized that going to help the person was not just what they needed, it was exactly what I needed.

Immediately, upon making the decision to go, I felt better. And spending that time helping that person, was one of the most rewarding things that I have done in a while. I forgot my problems and the blues melted away.

Wait a minute, it's stopped hailing, guys are swimming, guys are sailing, playing baseball gee that's better, Mother Father kindly disregard this letter.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, July 23, 2010

police report

Today I will go to the police station and fill out a report. I don't know that I have ever done that before. On Monday, my daughter went to the Royals game. While there, she misplaced her wallet. In her wallet were the normal things that a college student has. A debit card, driver's license, AAA card, and no cash. Oh yes, and she had Dad's credit card.

See it is that time of the year when college students buy their books. Online and with a credit card. Dad's card. And so goes the wallet, so goes the credit card.

You wonder if it is in lost and found. You wonder if it was vacuumed up by the giant clean up trucks. You wonder if it is on the side of the road somewhere. And you wonder if the bad guys got it.

So you cancel everything. The debit card, the credit card et al. Only one problem. Since you don't really use credit cards, you forgot which one you gave her, and you cancel the wrong one. So, on Thursday afternoon, [and why they wait until Thursday, I will never know, but I am grateful,] you get the phone call. "Mr. Brinkman, we are calling as a courtesy to let you know that we suspect fraudulent activity on your account."

Instantly I knew what happened. I cancelled the wrong card. After about 30 minutes on the phone with Capital One [the viking people] I have the entire story. From 3pm to 5pm yesterday afternoon, my credit card was used successfully twice and was declined four times at gas stations in the area of 25th and troost. Thank the Lord that the computers at the credit card companies just don't think that you should buy gas at a whole bunch of stations within a few hours.

It's funny. We lost the card and we cancelled the wrong one, but you still feel violated when you find out that someone is using your card like that.

I am making a police report today. Maybe with the dates and times, they can find a video tape at the station and catch the people who think that this is what you do when you find someone's wallet.

I guess I want you to know that if I find your wallet, you will get it back, with every stitch of cash. Heck, I will drive it to your home and drop it off. And to those who got a couple of free tanks of gas on the Brinkman's yesterday, well, if I knew that you needed it that bad, I would have just given it to you.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

good things

I witnessed a couple of really good things yesterday. Someone got some good news in the employment world, and someone else got some good news regarding one of their children. I was able to witness, share and enjoy the good feelings.

Now I am thinking about all the days that nothing really "special" happens. Just another average day. Well, when you think about it, those days are pretty special too. We grow so accustomed things that we stop seeing the good.

We are so fickle. Do you remember when you were so excited to get some new thing that you have? And now, you walk by it and don't even notice it? It brings you no more joy?

Stop and look and see the things and the people in your life. Good things are going on. It is a beautiful day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I told a couple of personal stories in worship on July 11th. They were stories of my call to ministry. Most of the people present had not heard them before because I have never told them in a sermon like that before.

I have been hesitant to tell those stories, not because I was afraid that someone would not believe them, but because they are very powerful and very personal and I have never wanted anyone to feel funny if they don't have a story like that.

I have now heard from one person who does not believe what I said.

I am sorry about that. I wonder what it feels like to think that your pastor made up those stories. But the fact of the matter is, as out of the ordinary as those stories are, those things happened to me, exactly as I related them. I cannot deny them or change them, or explain them other than to relate what happened. I am not sorry for them, I am not embarrassed by them. It just is what it is.

And so we each thank God for our lives and our stories and it's another beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The Grandview Triangle. It will always be the Grandview Triangle. You can call it three trails crossing if you want to, but to those of us who grew up with the traffic jams there, it will always be the triangle.

Now there is a massive engineering failure in the new highway system. Did you see the pictures on the news? Wow. An entire chunk of the big retaining wall slide down the hill. The wall was followed by tons of dirt and two lanes of westbound 470.

I remember when 470 did not exist. I remember when 435 did not exist. I remember driving to Lees Summit in 1978. I had to take Bannister road all the way out. Now some will be experiencing the same traffic patterns. If you want to get to Overland Park from Lees Summit, good luck.

I love and respect engineers, but you have to marvel at the way that God's world can confound our greatest designs. We have subdued much of the earth, but God is still God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, July 19, 2010


After mentioning in service that I wanted to use God's talents and abilities more often to help others, I got a call from a friend. He is the project manager for the new Hillcrest facility in Sugar Creek.

I went down there on Friday and took a tour and received some assignments. There is painting of walls, painting of trim, there is an old floor that needs to be pulled up with crow bars. There is some trim to remove and replace and there is some other trim that needs to be installed.

Hillcrest is a program that houses homeless people and trains them to reenter the world. Hillcrest provides financial counseling and helps the people get back on their feet. I am not explaining what they do very well, but it is a very good program.

If you would like to help me paint walls, paint trim, pull up an old floor, or remove and install some trim, please comment with your name and phone number or send me an email.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


There is joy in accomplishment. Saving enough money to pay your bills. Working hard on a project until it is completed. Evaluating and solving a problem.

Mowing the grass. Painting the house. Reading a book. Getting a college diploma. Each task that we do gives us the joy of a job well done.

Some want the joy without the work. The freedom without the responsibility. My Dad always said, "work first, play later." It is great advice. The book of Ecclesiastes has alot to say about the joy that men and women can get from their toil. If you enjoy your job, your work or your task, then you understand that, but if you don't it makes it a little harder.

The scriptures ask us to work as if working for the Lord. Next time you are in the middle of some task or career that you find less than satisfying, change the way that you see your tasks. You are working for the Lord. Does that change your perception?

There is great joy in life in accomplishing things that need to be done. Get up early, apply yourself, sweat, drink a glass of water and stay with the task. The reward at the end is the satisfaction of a job well done.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


People get mad for the strangest of reasons. Some people will drop you like a stone for next to nothing. You didn't mean for something to go the way it did, but they are done with you. Maybe the thing didn't go the way they think it did, but they are done. My favorite is when you do the right thing and people get mad. Or when someone does something wrong and you call them on it, and then they are mad at you.

Anyway, life is too short to carry a grudge. Life is too precious to walk around with an angry heart. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

If you are mad, get glad. Get your silly pride out of the way and forgive that person. You will be letting both of you out of prison.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Oil Leak

Well maybe we have this crazy oil leak stopped. I hope so. I say we, because it is all of our leak. If you drive a car, then you use some of the oil that they get out of the ground. I like cars so I am ok with drilling for oil, but I sure wish this had not happened.

I wonder what God would say. "Hey, people, thanks for poking a hole in my earth and soiling the beaches and killing the sea. Good work."

But we have technology and it brings us many good things. It also makes us go faster and farther and live more dangerously. Technology gives us lots of joy but we can also allow it to rob us of the simple things of life. We watch TV instead of sitting on the porch and talking to neighbors. We rush all over town in our cars instead of staying home and reading good books.

Well, those are choices that we make. I hope the oil leak is stopped for good. I am pretty sure that God is hoping that it is stopped too. If nothing else, I think there is a little party in heaven today because the hole appears to be plugged.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, and less oily. Be sure to see the good.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

what are you reading?

On vacation last week I was reading a book about leadership. One of the things that the book said is that we all have to keep learning. Keep reading. Keep learning. Otherwise we get stagnant, complacent and even arrogant, thinking that we have all the knowledge that we need.

I am not asking if you are reading devotionally. I hope that you are. This is a question about what you are reading that is challenging your paradigms. What programs are you interested in at the church? Who are the current great thinkers on these programs? What books have they written? Is one of them in your possession?

When we are all reading and learning from great people, our collective brains and hearts are stronger and we are all more focused on our mission.

Let me know what you are reading. And if you are not reading and would like some ideas, let me know what areas of the church you are interested in.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

grace alone

Last night I was at the grocery store and I ran into a friend from church. He said, "good sermon Sunday." I didn't remember seeing him on Sunday. He said, "yes I wasn't there, but I listened to the sermon on the web site."

He got a tear in his eye and he said, "gosh I miss church when I am not there, I so miss singing the song 'Grace Alone.' " Crying in the grocery store. I love it.

I was so pleased to see that he was touched by that song because I am touched by it too. I am glad to know that he feels this way about his church, even when he is not there. I always tell people that i love our church, but I am of course a bit prejudiced.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

how much?

A friend asked me on Sunday, "when Jesus asks us to give all, what does that mean?" I told them that you still have to take care of your family and that if you give away everything and cannot feed your family, that would be wrong. I guess that is as good as I could do on short notice.

Jesus asked us to do some interesting things. Love him more than our father and mother. Lose it all to find our soul. Go and sell all that you have and give to the poor. take up your cross. go the second mile. Ahh, the painful sayings of Jesus that make it clear that he is not just a nice guy who wants to comfort us, but that he is also the leader, the pioneer in a kingdom that demands our allegiance.

So how much do we give to him? This is a life question and a life journey for each of us. I would suggest that it begins with praying about all of your decisions. Including God in your decisions. Don't just buy a new car because you can. Ask God first. Don't just give such and such to the church because that is what you have always done. Ask God how to give. Don't just spend your time doing such and such because everyone else is doing it. Ask God.

As we begin to do this, the big ship of our lives begins to turn in the direction of giving it all to God, because he is now leading us.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Carpenters

Many of you know that our long time friends and members, Bill and Pam Carpenter have left for two years in Paraguay. Pam will be the principal at a school there and Bill will be teaching some Bible Studies and doing what ever else God leads him to do.

They have started a blog of their journeys:

I am going to add their blog as a sidebar to this one. Please keep them in your prayers.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm Baaaack!

Jack Nicholson said it in the Shining. I think Jim Carey said it in the Mask. Maybe what he said in the Mask was, "did jah miss me?" After a week of vacation with the family, today, I am back. Back at home, back at church, back in the pulpit. I have missed you all.

I hope to see you a little later this morning at that church with the big green roof!

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

an investment tip

I read this the other day from the well known investor Warren Buffett:

"The power of unconditional love. I mean, there is no power on earth like unconditional love. And I think that if you offered that to your child, I mean, you’re 90 percent of the way home. There may be days when you don’t feel like it — it’s not uncritical love; that’s a different animal — but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life. That takes you a long, long way. And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it’s going to make for a better human being.”

Invest our time…… offer our unconditional love to our children….…good stuff don't you think?

Now let’s take it a step further. Imagine if we did nothing else but follow “to the letter” the greatest commandments.

Matthew 22: 36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

How would the world look if everyone….I mean everyone…… followed those commandments everyday?……..hmm….you think maybe God had an investment tip for us to consider?

Lion’s Den Man

Friday, July 9, 2010

village people

A few weeks back I attended an “end of a team” soccer party. All but a few of the team members are moving on to college now. The team had been together for 10 years. Most of the original players stayed together. The two coaches stayed the entire 10 years. Great guys. Contributors to the community……well beyond soccer. Character builders. I always knew when I dropped my daughter off she would be returned to me at least the same if not better. No berating. No inappropriate use of language. Always positive. These guys were dead set on not only teaching the game but teaching sound values.... I keep thinking how fortunate my wife and I have been to have had our daughter cared for in this manner. My son has an almost an identical situation with his baseball team....what a difference this makes.

I had breakfast with a high school teacher/coach yesterday. He loves his job. He loves to teach. He loves to help kids grow and learn and reach their potential....awesome.

So I guess I just want to say thanks........not only to these people I have mentioned, but to all those people who take the time to care, to teach and to nurture our kids. It takes good hearted people. It takes a village. I am in a good one.....thank you all.

Lion’s Den Man

Thursday, July 8, 2010

a story to share

This was written the other day by a friend. I thought this was worth sharing.
Lion's Den Man

Another Independence Day

Another Independence Day has come and gone. This one seems to have a little more meaning to me. My wife and I got to spend some time with our good friends and their kids. After a long night of fun and fireworks we headed home looking forward to sleeping in on Monday morning. The dog awoke at 5:30AM to go out and we lay down on the sofa and curled up together. It was not long before I was dreaming of a time years ago.

I was on the couch sleeping but not with a dog by my side, it was my son. He was pretty small then maybe 3 or 4 and sound asleep. I reached over to wake my innocent child and he instantly went into the full body stretch that starts with the extension of the toes and ends with the arch of the back and the arms above the head. As a small sound escaped from his lips which indicated the success of the full body stretch he opened his eyes and a smile came across his face with the recognition of a loved one - his Dad. He started talking in that little boy voice that I had not heard in many years.

I suddenly awoke on the couch with my dog still by my side. Happiness, sadness, worries, longing - all of these emotions were running through me as I tried to remember and hold onto the scene that just played out in my dream.

I can’t remember what he said but I still feel the love shared by a smile between a Dad and his Son. You see my son is not here anymore. He is a long ways away. I miss him so. I long for the day to hold him close to me and tell him he is loved. One day I know I will get to do that.

As I mentioned earlier this Independence Day has more meaning to me. I have a better understanding of what families go through as their loved ones serve our country. My son is serving our country and is stationed half way around the world. I do miss him. I worry for him and I want him and his buddies to be safe. I look forward to the day that he comes home so I can hug his neck and tell him face to face how proud I am of him.

We should remember in prayer the men and women of our Armed Forces both past and present who gave of themselves so we can live in this great nation of ours. Before my son went into the military I never thought much about the sacrifices that have occurred that I might have a life here in the United States. That has all changed now.

We also have a God who gave a great sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ for all of us to have everlasting life. I look forward to the day that God puts his arms around me and tells me how proud he is of me. There is something about a Father’s love!

Fisher of Men

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I received a text message yesterday from a good friend…… “miss you my friend” The timing was eerie. He had been on my mind quite a bit lately. We are going to get together soon and catch up. It will be good, I miss him.

Last Thursday I received a similar text from another friend. “I was just thinking about you for some reason. Is everything ok?” Well it wasn’t but my troubles seemed to disappear when I read his words.

Interesting how some people connect with us from a distance. What makes that happen? Now I will say that both of these connections were with people I consider to be close friends. People I am not afraid to share my life with. I don’t fear judgment from them. I believe they see me through Christ’s eyes and that is how I always try to see them.

Those who know me, know how strongly I feel about developing friendships that go below the surface. A place where you can let your guard down. There is a bond that we can have with others which brings us closer to Christ. Once that happens I can’t help but feel that God is the one who keeps those connections going even from a distance.

Lion’s Den Man

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

no insignificant grace

First, no matter how you appear to others today, everyone has a dark side. You would be amazed if you knew the darkness lurking in the pasts of those people who have made a difference in your life. Regardless of how we look, we all have a past that is neither pleasant nor encouraging.

Second, regardless of what you have done, no one is beyond hope. That is the great hope of the Christian message. No amount or depth of sin in your past can trump the grace of God. If you question that remember Saul of Tarsus.

Third, even though your past is soiled, anyone can find a new beginning with God. It is never too late to start doing what is right.

Remember….don’t get stuck on where you were. Don’t waste time focusing on what you used to be. Grace gives us wings to soar beyond it.

These words above came from a book a friend shared with me. He is a good friend to me. He walks with a limp. I walk with a limp. We share our weakness and shortcomings with each other. It helps us move forward. Both of us have accepted God’s grace. Grace makes us feel whole again. Grace allows us to move forward. Grace empowers us to work on His behalf…….

GRACE………No amount or depth of sin in your past can trump the grace of God.

Lion’s Den Man

Monday, July 5, 2010


July 5, 1957
Happy Birthday Jeff!

Showing Up.

The most beautiful moments of my life have occurred when I simply showed up. Most of the time, I can't predict what is going to happen in a situation. Try as I might, I can't explain every possible outcome. Sometimes I don't have the right answer for the struggling friend. Sometimes I don't really know what it means to worship God right now. Sometimes it's not clear how I should pray.

But I can still go share that cup of coffee and see what happens. I can still limp into the sanctuary and sit down. I can still fall to my knees and wait for the words to come. When I don't know what to do, I hope I still show up.

I think we all go through periods where showing up is the best we can do. If you're in that place right now, it is okay. Looking back, I can see that God shows up, too.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Marking Time.

Holidays are natural markers of time. I can tell you exactly where I was for the last four Fourths. I can even remember what I was feeling on each of those days. Four years ago, I was a little lonely. Three years ago, I was falling in love. Two years ago, I spent the Fourth with Tricia for the first time. Last year, we were soon to be married. Now, look at us. Newlyweds.

And today I’ll be down in the Branch serving Communion at 10:10. Will Willimon compares Communion to a Christian family dinner. Mysteriously, Christ is present with his family. Most of the time, I am strangely aware of his presence and of the special bond I share with my family gathered around the Communion table.

Four years ago, I didn’t feel this way.

Four years ago, I bought a Bible for myself. Growing up, I received a lot of Bibles from other people, but I bought this one just for me. Like I said, I was lonely. I wanted to know if Jesus had anything to say about what I was feeling. The other day, I was flipping through this Bible and I had written on the first page – the one usually reserved for whoever gave you the Bible. It was dated June 28, 2006. Under the “Occasion,” I wrote “Finding God for the 1st Time.”

Now, my understanding of that has changed a little bit. I would say that God found me. I would say that he continues to find me, and I see myself a little clearer in his light. When he finds me, he embraces me, but it is not always the soft embrace of a Mother. Often, it feels like the hard embrace of a Father who will not let go, no matter how hard I squirm.

But today is the day of the soft embrace. I sit still, and I consider all that has changed over the past four years. I have grown – sometimes steadily, and occasionally in anxious fits. There is plenty more growing to do, but I am here now, marking time and giving thanks to the One who finds me and holds on for dear life.

With love,

a young shepherd.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Whose Story Is It?

It seems to me that the Hebrew Scriptures (The Old Testament) were written specifically for the Jewish people, who were trying to obey God. Likewise, The New Testament was written specifically for the Church, the people who understand Jesus to be the perfect human reflection of this God. If this is true, then our scriptures were not written for us to tell people outside the faith how they should live their lives. The scriptures were written for those of us attempting to be the church, so that we may live out these words.

For this reason, I don’t care whether they take the Ten Commandments out of the American courthouses. The question is: Have I obeyed the Commandments today?

I don’t care whether they allow people to pray before high school football games. The question is: Have I remembered to pray today?

I don’t care whether we are pledging allegiance to one nation “under God.” The question is: Have I pledged my allegiance to God, period?

I could go on, and you may disagree with me. I love to dialogue with people about things such as these. Even more, I love the thought of us learning to disagree well. For me, that means that we keep on loving each other in a way that lifts up the person over the person’s opinion, so that our opinions may be shared even more freely.

But the bottom line for me is that I am attempting to follow Christ, and be his disciple, and join together with other disciples in the community we call the church. And that means that I must learn to read the Scriptures in a way that shapes my life, and allows me to be the kind of member of this community that Jesus intended. This does not mean that I am not concerned with “reaching others” outside of the faith. I simply think that I must embody – or live out – my faith in Christ so that others may see. We live in a world that says “don’t tell me; show me” and this is what I aim to do.

After all, is this not the pattern given to us? The Good News is that God did not remain distant from his people, issuing decrees on how we should live. He came to us as a man so that we might see what “God is love” really looks like.

I doubt that people outside the faith really care how much we think they should listen to God’s Word. The question is: Are we listening?

With love,

a young shepherd.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts on Church

You can’t “go to church.” To use that phrase implies that church is something outside of our selves. It is not a place; it is not a destination; it is not a day of the week; it is not a building. Church is the Body of Christ, which is the group of people choosing to follow Him together in community.

This understanding, “the Body of Christ,” may have lost some of its “oomph” the way that phrases often do. Maybe it is because of overuse or because we haven’t stopped to consider the depth of its meaning. Our bodies are alive. Our bodies are composed of vital organs working together in harmony to perform one singular purpose. This purpose is life.

Rightly understood, Sunday morning – or whenever the church meets for communal worship -- is just one expression of this Body coming together. You might say that this is just one form of exercise for the Body, a way of bringing our spiritual muscles into formation. But I wonder if it is possible for this Body to ever be in shape if we only exercise one hour per week. I wonder if we are missing out on the other forms of exercise that we need.

The point of this post is not to say that “we should be doing more.” Maybe I am simply suggesting that we need more. Maybe many of us are spiritually struggling by Sunday morning, because we have not yet discovered how to be the church together throughout the week. This is not another commandment. It is a recipe for those of us who are spiritually hungry. Jesus’ model of prayer reveals that we should ask for our daily bread.

It is no wonder that many of us are starving if we only remember to eat once per week.

With love,

a young shepherd.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Love is the Answer.

On Monday around one o’clock, I was eating my lunch with my wife Tricia in the coffee bar area of our church's building. Someone came in with a Bible question. He wanted to know what the Bible has to say about some very serious problems his close friend is facing. My wife smiled at me, because she knows me. She knows I live for these moments.

I wish sometimes that I was better at making small talk. If you’ve ever asked me how I’m doing, you may have noticed that I don’t usually have much to say. I’m just not much of a casual chatter. But I love to analyze. I love to wax philosophical. Apparently, so does my new friend from Monday.

At the same time, it is extremely nerve-wracking to sit in front of someone who thinks you have the Answer. It seems to me that life is not that black and white all the time. But as we were chatting, I began to take solace in being unsure. I started thinking that this conversation is more about the search. More specifically, it is about the two of us searching together.

We may not find the answer, but we can look together. We can ask questions together.

Knowing that you do not know is a beautiful thing. It leads us deeper into wonder. And what is even more beautiful is feeling a sense of wonder in the company of your friends. We do not have the answer, but we have time for each other. We have time for conversation. We have time for big questions. We may sense that the Answer exists, but we also sense our own fallibility. The answer eludes us. We’re never sure that we’re sure, and this mystery draws us deeper and deeper into relationship.

When I am struggling, Christ does not always give me the answer. But he always gives me Himself. I am beginning to see that is the answer. I am often overwhelmed by the problems that people are facing around me, but His grace is enough. And his grace is revealed through the simple reality of his presence.

There is a paradigm I can follow. When people are searching for answers, search with them. Make space for them in your life. Be present, and wait for the presence of Christ to transform both of you. After all -- as Paul writes in his First Letter to that little Church in Corinth -- we only know a little bit, and even this will pass away in the end (1 Cor. 13).

But love never ends. Even when we don’t know the answer – or especially when we don’t know the answer – we can choose to love each other.

With love,

a young shepherd.