Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A week ago Sunday I mentioned that one of my confessions would be that I feel that I have not done as good of a job as I could have/should have, visiting with you about prayer. Trying to help you understand the purpose of, and benefit of Godly prayer.

I share these three prayers with you over the last few days to give you a picture of what I think are some of Christianity's best prayers. I asked you to read them and look for the common themes. Several of you commented, and you get it.

If you take a moment today and read them again, you will see the common themes. Prayer submits me to God. Pray brings my heart to kneel. In prayer I am lost in him and in his purpose. In prayer I realize that nothing on my heart or mind compares to basking in his presence.

Now at this point someone will say that God cares for our needs and concerns. I would agree. But these should not be the primary focus of our praying. Our praying needs to be about spending time with the Master........ with no strings attached.

When I come to your house to dinner, it is about us hanging out and enjoying each other. It is not about me asking you for everything.

This is such a change to the thoughts of most American Christians, who think that God is a spiritual vending machine...... prayer in - blessings out. The monastics, and the great Christ followers of all time, found peace and rest in the presence of the one that they loved.

And so in prayer, I lose myself in Him. I find myself in him. I retreat from the world, so that I can return to it as the person he made me to be. In prayer I say, not my will but thine. In prayer I deliver my time, talent and treasure to him for his disposal. It all came from him anyway, and our lives find perspective when our focus is leaning into him instead of worrying about our stuff.

I also find it a bit interesting that often in prayer, you are the answer. Not that you are some power broker, but often, the answer that we seek comes from us simply releasing ourselves to do and be what God calls us to be. This principle is illustrated in the old story of the person who was going to ask God why he allowed so many people to die of hunger, but then the person decided not to ask, because he/she was afraid that God might ask the same of us. Why do we allow so many people to die of hunger? And so, as I am submitted to God, I can become the answer to many of my prayers.

There is so much to say on this subject, but this post is long enough. May you find the place in prayer where worldly concerns are absorbed and dissipated by the sheer joy of holding fast to the one that you love, and who loves you like no other.

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

the youth rock

Tomorrow we will talk about the three prayers. Today, I can only write about the awesome mark that the youth made on my life yesterday. So, ok, I am easy. If anyone is hungry to be touched by God, it has to be the preacher that does not have to preach on a particular Sunday. For once in your life you get to go sit in the pew with your wife and listen to the service.

The youth did not disappoint us. The music was awesome. The singers were awesome. The speakers were awesome. The energy from the youth group was beyond description. If you missed it, I am sorry for you. If you intentionally skipped it, then you have reaped the reward for that choice.

Young people, you were awesome. I was blessed. I can only hope that I give to others the same touch of God that you gave to me at the youth service on Sunday. I can't tell you how excited I am for you and how proud I am of all of you. Thank you!

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

3 favorite prayers pt.3

St. Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556 was a Spanish priest who founded the Order of Jesus [Jesuits]. He is the patron saint of spiritual retreats. He left some pretty cool prayers. Here is one called surrender:

Take O Lord and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am, and all that I possess, you have given me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will. Give me only your love and grace. With these, i will be rich enough and will desire nothing more.

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

3 favorite prayers pt.2

John Wesley [1703-1791] was an Anglican Priest who inadvertently became the founder of the Methodist Church. He was a fiery preacher who led thousands of people to Christ. Travelling by horseback all over England he would preach three times per day. The common people of the day responded with joy to his message of grace.

Wesley spoke seven languages and wrote a ton of books. Consequently, he made a lot of money, but lived a very austere lifestyle and gave the rest to the poor. Among his many writings is a prayer that has become known as the Wesley Covenant Prayer.

I am no longer my own but thine. Put me with what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing. Put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee. Exalted by thee or brought low by thee. Let me be full or let me be empty. Let me have all things or let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou are mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Good stuff.

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

3 favorite prayers pt.1

I have three favorite historic prayers. I am going to share them with you over the next 3 days. They are awesome. See if you can see a common thread within these three prayers.

St. Francis: Giovanni Fransesco de Bernardone 1181-1226. Patron Saint of animals and the environment. He organized an order of friars which would become known as the Franciscans. You see a lot of statues of him in gardens. We have one at our house. Although he only lived for 45 years, he left quite a mark on the world, and he left one of my favorite prayers.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master-
Grant that I may not seek to be consoled, as to console.
to be understood, as to understand.
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

myth #4

Oh no. We are going to become a mega church. If we become a mega church, a lot of people are going to leave. We don't want to be a mega church.

Ok. So, what is a mega church? And, who gets to decide when there are enough people?

Personally, I am sick to my stomach thinking about how many people are here now. I go to meetings with people who have attended for years, and I don't even know them. It drives me crazy.

But, who of you would like to stand out at the front door and tell the really new folks that they can't come in? We have enough. You can't come in because we don't want to become a mega church.

I thought that we were supposed to win every person that we could to Jesus Christ and his church. If that is so, then how do you stop that? When do you get to stop that? Do you ever get to decide how big your church will be? Isn't it a blessing if others want to come to your church? I am sure there are lots of churches who wish that they were at capacity and still others want to come.

Jesus did not stop with the 12. Nor did he stop with the 70 or the 120. There are millions of Christians all over the world, and he keeps trying to win more. So should we. It is not about our comfort, or how many, it is about us hearing the call of Christ to reach out and working to fulfill our potential. Is there someone that you know that you want to invite to church?

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. pray that God would send others to work the fields. God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of him. he wants everyone to come into a relationship with him. We have no right to stop that because we are uncomfortable around crowds.

Sorry, but that is just the way that it is.

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

myth number 3

Building myth #3 = we should not spend the money on a building, but we should spend the money on missions.

Ahh. So awesome sounding. But if we took that advice 12 years ago, we would still be spending $3,000 per year on missions. Fact is, the money we spent to build the building in 1999 opened the door and increased the potential so that now we are spending 100,000 per year on missions.

Making room for others grows the soil from which larger missions ideas grow. There are dreams for us out in the future in mission that we will never know if we do not invite others to join us.

Truth is, it is a both and. When others join you, your potential grows. But, that will never happen unless you make room for them. It all goes together. Space for people that will hear God's call and join us in mission. It all goes together.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

building myth 2

If yesterday's post was building myth one: we have enough room. Today can be building myth two: the pastor only cares about new people.


If that were true, the only people that I would care about were the 125 that were here in 1994. Everyone else, since then, is technically "new". Because they have all been won to the church by the outreach efforts of the original group. Fact is, your pastor cares deeply about every single person in the church. Young, old and in between. Child, youth and adult. God's family includes every single one of you and it is my job to reach you when you are outside the church, care for you once in the church, and send you out into the world to reach others.

That is the cycle. We come in. We get our feet on the ground. We go out. Without the going out, there is no church, just a country club. And the going out into the world, by definition, implies reaching out to others.

It is not that the pastor cares for others more than those who are here, it is that the pastor's deep desire is that we all fulfill God's purpose by continuing to reach out. When we stop doing that, we have forgotten what the church is about.

So the pastor cares about all of you. And the pastor cares about all of you enough to not allow us to sink into our easy chair and decide that the world revolves around us. The gospel is active. It is out there, and it is waiting for your active participation today. I love you enough to challenge you to be about our Father's business.

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

we have enough room

I heard it the other day. Why build? We have enough room for us.

Please stop and think of what that sounds like and what that means.

If the people at Woods Chapel had said that in 1998, there would still only be 250 people in attendance. Everyone else that has joined since then would not even be here at the church.

When we join the church, we pledge to support it by our "prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness." What is our witness to the community if we stop making room for others? We have enough for us. That is all that matters.

When churches decide that they have arrived, they begin the process of dying. People with vision leave. People that want the church to reach out and touch the world, they leave. The church becomes a place that is turned in on itself, where everything is measured by "if it is good for us."

There are lots of churches like this around. Let us pray that our church does not become one. It is a very difficult place to come back from.

Jesus still calls us to reach the community with his love. There are lots of unchurched people in our neighborhoods. There is still this thing called the great commission. Let us draw together in pursuit of God's purpose for our church.

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

Sunday, August 22, 2010


This post is shamelessly human. Never count the old guy out.

I was on a canoe trip Friday and Saturday. Same bunch of guys for the last four years. One of the traditions of the trip is that everybody tries to dunk the biggest guy. Don't feel bad for him, this is just what happens when you are the biggest dude on the block. You get used to it.

Well, for years, we have tried unsuccessfully. One at a time, two at a time, surprise attack, nothing worked.

This year, everything changed. let's just say that the oldest guy dunked the biggest guy. Alone. Mano e mano. Yes, it was a surprise attack, but when you are the oldest guy you have to do what you can to settle the score. Regardless, anyway you look at it, he went all the way under.

Yes, he got up and thrashed the old guy like a rag doll, but it was all worth it. Victory is sweet.

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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

today's lesson is.....

Romans 12
Place Your Life Before God
1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I am at my best when I am not trying to fit in...to feel comfortable....to be what someone else expects. It takes to much effort. For me there seems to be little reward or satisfaction in conformity. The older I get the less appealing it has become....life is too short to not explore it and what it has in store for me. My father was that way. He saw things and people from a whole other angle. As a kid I used to think he was just strange, as an adult I began to see and understand him differently....scary when that happens. I suppose the key is to become comfortable in your own skin and understanding that, "God brings the best out of you" if you let him.

Lion's Den Man

Friday, August 20, 2010

village people part 2

Back in July I wrote about our family's positive experience with sports, teams and coaches. I mentioned a friend of mine that is both a teacher and a coach, how he loves what he does and how important and rewarding it is to him to help kids reach their potential. Yesterday I got to see him in action. He and his coaching staff had a student athlete that needed encouragement. They understood the situation. They showed compassion. They humbled themselves by sharing their own similar personal experiences and struggles. They brought humor into the conversation. Weaknesses were not mentioned. They worked from the positive. They made the student feel whole and inspired. It was so perfect it almost seemed choreographed....but it wasn't....it was just an honest and pure response made by a few good people who want to make a difference in the life of a kid. Awesome!

As I said before, it takes a village, and I am in a good one.

Lion's Den Man

Thursday, August 19, 2010

more on guilt

Someone asked if Jesus delivered guilt. What about his pointed painful talks with the pharisees? I guess I would agree that Jesus squared off with a few people. He challenged them to stop oppressing and hurting people. I think there are people and systems in the world today that Jesus would challenge if he were here in person.

I do think that there is a difference between squaring off with someone, telling the truth as you see it, and delivering guilt.

Guilt is something that we use as a tool to manipulate people to do what we want them to do. Parents are known to do this to their children. Some pastors do this to their people. Some churches have a theological approach that is all about casting blame and shame in an attempt to straighten people up. Those that engage in delivering guilt generally tend to do so as a normal part of their mode of operation. They may not even see that they are doing it. After all, aren't they just trying to help people do right? But the end of such behavior is hurt and pain. The end of guilt delivery is broken and crushed people. We end up driving away the very people that we were trying to win.

Yes Jesus squared off with the arrogant. But Jesus did not in my opinion try to motivate people by shaming them or making them feel guilty. I don't think we should either.

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

an ounce

There is an old saying: an ounce of mother is worth a pound of pastor. Let me say it another way: an ounce of love is worth a pound of pastor.

Recently, I delivered an ounce of guilt to someone. Maybe even a half an ounce. And... it crushed them. I did not mean to deliver the guilt, I thought I was trying to do good. But evidently it hurt them. Obviously it hurt them.

I am sorry. Guilt is a very painful thing. Jesus never dealt in guilt. We need to be very careful about delivering guilt. Grace is the alternative. Grace. Grace. Grace. Grace. How can I help you see that you are loved, that you are awesome, that you are forgiven. Grace alone. We go forth, we go forward, we live, by grace alone.

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Grass. We like it when it is pretty, green and free of weeds. There is a person not far from our house who did some re-sodding in their yard. They neglected to keep the sod watered and it died. What did come up though, was a nice stand of nutsedge. Nutsedge is that stuff that looks like grass but the blades are fatter and it grows really fast. Now the neighbor is watering their nutsedge, thinking it is grass. It is tough stuff to get rid of and definitely not grass.

And so what is growing in our lives? Is it Christian stuff or do we only think it is Christian stuff? How do you know the difference. It is pretty simple really. If what we are doing is Christ centered, it is Christian. If what we do is us centered, it is nutsedge. If self is in the mix, it only looks like the Christian life. To really find the joy of being a Christian, we need to learn to live lives that are void of self-interest. We need to learn and practice giving ourselves away for the sake of Christ.

When we do, oh what joy! It feels good! And the good news is, no matter where you are on the journey, you can begin today to live the life that is about loving others. God is love so when you love others, you will find him in your midst.

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

Monday, August 16, 2010


There are those moments when everyone is smiling and all is well. Don't let them go by without giving thanks to God. Because other moments may be coming where you will look at the pictures and remember the times and wonder.

Into each life a little rain must fall. Rain causes the flowers to grow. Sand irritates an oyster and produces a pearl. God makes all things beautiful in his time.

Look long term, keep busy and enjoy the pictures.

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

church for sale

Beautiful little white church for sale in Ben Lomond, Calif.
When churches forget why they are here, they begin to die. The people forget about the great commission and turn inward. They forget that Jesus came to serve rather than to be served. Their sanctuaries become less and less filled. Joy is replaced with fear. The average age of the congregation begins to soar. Pretty soon the handwriting is on the wall. People begin to make plans to close, to merge, to end the dream. You see this repeated all over the country.

Sometimes I take time to wonder- who were these people, what were their dreams? Where did they go? What happened to the fire?

The remedy for this disaster is simple. Churches have to recover a sense of why they exist. They must refocus on the call of Christ. They, we all need to sniff out self-centeredness as it appears in our church world view, and find again the purpose to which Jesus calls us. When we do this, the church thrives and dry bones come back to life.

When you come to church, are you primarily looking for something for yourself, or do you realize that you are an important part of the plan of God to reach out and care about the people that he brings your way? Do you find your joy in what you get or what you give?

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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

plumbing and wildlife

Someone asked about the plumbing for the shower. Is there hot water or does it just run off the roof. Interestingly enough, the water pipes, both hot and cold are attached to the kitchen sink, they run outside, around the perimeter of the cabin, totally exposed to the weather, and finally back to the shower. The water was hot and it felt really good.

Another interesting thing about this camp was the number of deer that seemed to roam around with no fear of man. Now why would anyone be afraid of Quakers anyway? I saw many deer while I was there and they were very cooperative when I wanted to take their pictures.
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone was so trusting.
It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

the haven pt 2

Someone asked what the bath room facilities were like at the haven. Well, there is a toilet inside the haven. but there is not a sink in the bathroom. the sink is in the kitchen. So, you go there to wash your hands.

The shower is outside. It is the kind of situation where you know no one is around, but you still feel kind of funny taking a shower out where anyone that came along could see you. See the picture?

We don't like to feel uncomfortable, but sometimes that is just how life is. Quaker life is simple. There is a mop and a bucket to clean the floor but no chemicals. Clean it with regular water. I think that is just how life used to be. And somehow, it is simple and it is good. I really enjoyed the stay.
It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the haven

The name of the place that I stayed last week was "the haven." It was a nice cabin almost to the end of the road. The haven is one of several cabins that belong to the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond, Calif.

No TV, no airconditioning, but you really didn't need it. Nice, but basic. Simple. That is the Quaker way.

To find a place of quiet is so important, and you don't have to go to California to do so. Today at 9am I baptized a young man at the beach at the cove behind the main Lakewood Clubhouse. It was so quiet and peaceful and beautiful back there at 9am.

Simple. Quiet. Good.

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

difficult things

[the pop up box that some of you were experiencing in the last few days has been resolved. It was not a virus. A picture that was posted was somehow directing readers to the woods chapel server which calls for a password. Sorry about the concern. It should be fixed now.]

Difficult things

Sometimes I get to visit with folks about difficult things that they are facing. Divorce, Family feuds. Problems at work. Etc.

Many of the problems that we face are not easily resolved. Some are not resolvable. Sometimes we are powerless to change what is happening and we are left dealing with things that turn into ongoing open wounds.

One of the best pieces of advice that I have collected over the years sounds something like this: "yes this thing makes you mad, yes this thing is very disturbing, yes we wish it was not here. What ever you do, be sure to conduct yourself in a manner that years from now you will not regret your behavior." In other words, yes this is a tough time, but don't act vindictively. Don't hurt the other people just because you are hurt.

If you can be kind when your heart is breaking, you can always look back on that chapter of your life with no regrets. Sometimes I have to take my own advice.

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Odd. I don't like crowds. I am ok with crowds at church. I have learned to get used to it, and I know that we are supposed to win every person that we can. But in the rest of the world, I am not into crowds.

My counselor tells me that I am an introvert in an extrovert's world. I noticed my nervousness about crowds on my trip last week. After being alone in the forest for a week, I spend the last day in San Francisco because my flight left from there. When wandering around some of the famous places by the bay, there were big crowds.

If it was bad enough, I did not even go in. Some place that I really wanted to see, but I would just walk on by because I did not want to deal with the bodies. When given the choice I will always choose the restaurant with the quiet corner, the grocery store when there are no lines, the road less traveled.

I don't know what that is all about. Quiet is good, silence is golden. I am glad for the chance to win ever person that we can, but lots of people make me nervous. Oh well.

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

Monday, August 9, 2010


I have some stories to share from last week.

United Methodist Pastors are required to spend two weeks each year in continuing education. Everyone knows that preachers need to get smarter. Often continuing education consists of going somewhere and sitting in a seminar. One of the things that I have chosen to do the last three years is to take a week and go to a camp in the California Redwoods to read. I am constantly accumulating books that I need to read, and a week sequestered away with a pile of books is one way that I have found to get them digested.

So I am at this camp last week outside of Ben Lomond , California. The camp is at the end of a very narrow road. There are no street lights, you can barely call it a street. My cabin is at the end of the road, the farthest up the hill. This is a one way road and in some places you can barely sneak a car past the trees.

One night, after spending the afternoon at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and stopping for Pizza on the way back to the cabin, I arrived after dark. And let me tell you, it was dark. I realized as I pulled up in front of the cabin that this is about as quiet and dark as a person is ever going to find.

I have to walk from the car to the cabin in the pitch blackness of the night. Did I mention that there are signs all over this part of the country warning you about the presence of mountain lions? I was never so glad to get into that cabin and shut the door.

Fear. I wish my worst fear was fear of the dark. I guess one good thing about worry and fear is that it tends to push me back towards God. When I find myself in the valleys of life, my heart tends to look harder for the Shepherd.

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

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Silence- we don't know very much about it. That is one reason, that each year I take a retreat to the redwood forest. Silence. There is nothing quite so quiet as being the only person for miles, out in the middle of a forest.

Silence reminds us that our souls are important. It reminds us that there is something going on in this world besides the crashing noisy input of our society. The great masters of the faith considered the practice of silence to be an important Christian discipline.

I thank the Levite for posting in my absense. Most days I had no readily available access to the internet- and I survived!

The noise of life can turn us into something that we don't want to be. Turn the TV off. Go sit outside for 30 minutes and just sit. Silence is good for the soul.

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

Saturday, August 7, 2010

what service will you attend?

I remember leading communion as a youth pastor in Camdenton, Missouri. We had 2 services to break the bread. The first service, I took the loaf, broke it in half, telling the congregation that this was the body of Christ broken for them. The 2nd service I went to reenact the breaking of the same loaf, and the kids decided that it might be fun to fill the already broken loaf with jelly beans. So you can imagine what happened when I went to break bread. This is the body of Christ .....bouncing jellybeans across the alter for you. Let's just say, I was not filled with laughter at this moment ---but I do remember it quite clearly.

So which service do you attend?
We have 5 of them now at our church on Sunday morning.....soon to be six when the Beacon launches a Saturday night service August 21st. Do you like contemporary, traditional, blended, organic or cutting-edge? Do you like the preacher to tell great stories or quote from the scriptures? Do you like the worship leader to energetically lead the choir or band, or do you prefer a more contemplative worship? And how about the visuals ---lots of flowers, motion backgrounds, or not? What about the sound levels and the lights? Should we pass the offering plates or just put boxes in the back of sanctuary? And communion, how often, real bread or wafers?

Sometimes I feel that we approach selecting a church or a service to attend the same way we might order off of a menu (a nice hymn, with a touch of scripture, a great prayer, and an inspiring sermon --to go please) But what if our approach was different? What if we asked how will our service to the Lord be worship? What will we do, what will we give, how will we show this day that we love the Lord? Let's make our worship --to serve. To rob a quote from JFK: let's ask not what our church can do for us, but what we can do for the church.

So here it is . . . .just showing up on Sunday morning is not enough . . . .I said it.

And it hurts.

Because I spend a lot of my work preparing for Sunday mornings. Bill Hybels, leader of the Willow Creek Church, likes to say that the local church is the "hope of the nations." And why shouldn't it be, after all we are "the body" of Christ. And we should be bouncing more of our lives across the alter, spilling out into the streets and cities where we live, speaking into the broken lives of our neighbors, friends, and our families.

If you attend Woods Chapel, you are a missionary. We make sure that you know that being a part of our church involves giving yourself away. If you haven't figured out what that means yet for your life, talk to someone on staff at our church. We have lots of opportunities for you to serve the poor, the orphans, the aliens, those in prison, the widows.

Jesus asked Peter 3 times, "Do you love me? --then feed my sheep." What was it that Jesus told his disciples when the 4000 people needed to be fed? "You feed them."

Rise up Church --we are Christ's plan A and there is no plan B (check out the book Radical by David Platt subtitled, "Taking back our faith from the American Dream," this theme is all over this book) ---let's get to work!

Holy Spirit rise up among our people and let us lay down our lives for YOU.


the levite (thanks for letting me sound off this week --Jeff will be back tomorrow)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Belly Laugh

Psalm 126
"When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with LAUGHTER, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy"

Jennifer and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary on August 12th. My one piece of advice for every new couple getting married is this ---be sure and LAUGH together as much as possible. Laughter can get you through a lot of difficult moments. Just don't laugh at the wrong times.

We were driving back on our 1300 mile trip from the East Coast. After a long day of potty breaks, crumbled gold fish crackers , pillow fights in the back seat, not enough clean pacifiers, and a car smelling like 2 days of french fries. Jennifer had been pushed to the limit and broke through the bickering with this phrase "We're not stopping for diarrhea!" I looked at her, a little shocked by what had come out of her mouth and then bursted with laughter. When these phrases come up, I like to keep a log of them, and reuse them whenever possible. This was a classic and I won't be letting go of this anytime soon.

So when the 5th child douses himself in powdered sugar and uses a pack of thawed, yet uncooked hot dogs as a teething toy, When the 4th child is collecting a small fortune of smarties in the air vents, the 3rd child is literally climbing the walls, and 1 & 2 are having a disagreement over who is the meanest, then what can you do but laugh...It's more than good medicine.

Find somebody you can laugh with....We need more laughter in the church....when's the last time you laughed until it hurt...... fill your home with laughter, because there's enough difficult stuff in this world. In fact, try this: mark down every time that you worry about something today ---and for every worry that you have ---find a joke to share with someone. For where there is laughter, there is joy.

And if you run out of jokes, ask our pastor .....he's got some good ones.

Taste and See that the Lord is good. ---have fun with this tune.

the levite

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Holy Moment

Have you ever had one? One of those moments that is so pure, so true, so awesome, where you could say that was unmistakably God's presence. Make no mistake, these are unplanned, spontaneous moments where God steps in. Jeff has been sending me these pictures of the Redwood Forest that clearly display the awesomeness of our God in creation. Our response to seeing the rockies, or the black hills of South Dakota, or the grand canyon, or the birth of a child, is certainly one of awe.

But holiness...this is me shuttering before my creator and realizing God truly is in this. It's not an emotion, or a revelation, or an aha moment. This is Zechariah coming out of the temple upon hearing the news of a Savior...This is you and me experiencing the forgiveness of sin (Psalm 130:4)

We live in a time where there is very little that our culture recognizes as sacred anymore. And yet, God has put within us, a need and desire to experience holiness.

I invite you to wrestle with the words of this song by Addison Road. Catch a glimpse of His holiness and you will rediscover what it means to fear God. And the fear of God, after all, is the beginning of wisdom.

verse 1
I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?
I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

Consider God's holiness today.

Make it a great one,

the levite

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Church Music

David Crowder's last album that he released was called "Church Music." If you're not sure who the David Crowder Band is, you may want to get more familiar with him. He has touched a nerve with many young worshipers by cultivating a new and creative sound that explores reinventing the old and using electronic media and unorthodox instrumentation. Of course church music is changing --always. For example check out the Michael Gungor band or Matt Papa --you may be hearing these in church soon. (Think Coldplay or One Republic)

So what is church music? We immediately might think about opening the hymnal and turning to page .... or we might think of the folk tunes of the early praise and worship movement "Seek Ye First" or of course, the crowning jewel of the praise and worship movement "Lord I Lift Your Name on High." Do I keep up with the trends --no way. But I do recognize that when a singer or musician or composer creates something beautiful, or powerful, or mysterious, or when it captures an emotion or truth where words have failed, God is present.

When it comes to how we present this in the church, when we have a body of people who obviously have different tastes in music and are moved by different styles....how do we approach selecting music? I suppose this is my job. I believe that we can begin by finding those songs that capture the heart beat of God, sung in a way that the instrument or the one who delivers the song connects the words in a way that people are allowed to enter into a glimpse of God's holiness, His eternal and mysterious nature.

Southern Gospel: Check out the Isaacs --this arrangement of "It is well" gets me every time
Black Gospel: I love the Mississippi Mass Choir --"I'm not tired yet."
Choral Music: I got to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when they came to KC --it was tremendous.
R&B --Toby Mac has struck a chord with many, I love "City on our Knees"

I guess the question that we need to be asking as we prepare church music is simple. And it's not what style, what singer, what genre, how fast, or slow, what instrument, how old is it. But Does it indeed move us into a place where we can enter into God's presence. My hope is that it happens for you at our church and perhaps you can assist me as we consider together, what is that music that stirs the soul to a more profound conviction, confession, confrontation with our Maker.


the levite

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lukewarm Christians

I didn't grow up a Methodist. I grew up in the First Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. I've been a part of a Presbyterian Church, a United Church of Christ, and a few others along the way. But I'm always curious to hear how people define what being a Methodist is about. One guy in our church says --"they're not too hot and not too cold, kind of right in the middle."
A lot of people want to define churches as being liberal or conservative, fundamentalist or not. I am thankful to be a part of a church at Woods Chapel whose leaders are more interested in seeing lives transformed for the sake of Christ and His glory, rather than trying to define a "Christian" world view that makes practical sense in our world. Most of what Jesus did, after all, didn't make sense to his followers.

Back to the soup .....if it's not too hot or not too cold then it's, well, lukewarm. Francis Chan has some pretty strong words to us who are "lukewarm" Christians --check out "Crazy Love." p65-81. This chapter really shook me up because I realized that there is nothing lukewarm about following Jesus and loving Him with ALL our heart, mind, soul, or strength. What does this even look like?

So the mantra in our society is live a "balanced" life ---"everything in moderation" --some of us believe this came right out of the scriptures. As someone with an artistic temperament, I have no problem discarding this philosophy. Us artistic types, after all, are a little manic in most things we do. But we only have to look as far as Jesus himself to discover that balance was not a principle that governed His life. Look at the story of the samaritan woman in John 4 , the disciples were concerned with Jesus getting something to eat, Jesus was concerned with this ladies life being transformed. Look at the feeding of the 5 thousand in Luke 9 --"send them away" say the disciples, "we are tired and there is nothing to eat." Following Jesus does not require balance, but obedience.

Look, there are hard things in our life and some of you might be experiencing the pain right now. Some of you have been in it for awhile. Don't abandon the faith, celebrate the chaos, check out what James or Peter or Paul have to say about suffering (James 1:2-8 or 1 Peter 4:12-13 or Romans 5:3-5). Perhaps God is using this time to draw you back to Him. And remember John 15:5 --we are the branches shaking in the wind, but as long as we are attached to the vine...the fruit will come. And I don't know about you, but I want to bear great fruit for Him......, but it only happens in a season ---there is winter out there and it is His season too. Check out Nichole Nordeman's song about this "Every Season" --great song.

Okay, so tomorrow we talk more about music....

the levite.

Monday, August 2, 2010

orange toothpaste

5 kids brushing their teeth at the same time, in the same bathroom, jockeying for position in the sink. It's a Sunday night at the Bartman house and we are shutting it down. They are all at different stages of brushing: some have the technique and the spitting, some go for a swipe and a drool, some just open their mouths and scream. By the time you get done, you definitely have a mess, large clumps of toothpaste, and one left by the sink dumping water back and forth in two 2 inch cups. A short story, a prayer, and the magic hour is over.

This is our life and day by day we are learning when we need to encourage, when we need to be silent, and when we need to correct. So we are overwhelmed, but it is quiet, and we'll do it again tomorrow.

So I've been asking the question a lot lately, and so I give it to you this morning: how are you starting and how are you finishing? Are you running the race to win the prize, or are you counting the seconds until the next ...game, meal, test, paycheck.

Okay, so I don't like the big messes, or the noise, or the whining, but when I stop and consider that God has given us this moment then my response is worship. Yes, worship. Thank you God for giving us this opportunity to see large clumps of orange toothpaste in the sink.

Oh yes ......and a life verse from me James 4:17 .....check it out

the levite

Sunday, August 1, 2010

a friend

How do you define a friend. They are just a call away. They stand beside you. They laugh with you. They cry with you. When everyone else has given up on you, your friends are still there. When you are at the end of your rope, your friends sit with you and console you.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share.

If you feel alone today, he awaits. If you have come to the end of yourself, he beckons you to come to him. He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is just a call away.

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