Thursday, May 31, 2012

Winds, Loggers, Fires and Berries

Strong winds blew down a swath of trees -- leaving jagged trunks jutting from the earth.
 Driving by a few days later, we shook our heads and sadly recalled how beautiful the land used to be.

 I grumbled against the wind.

 Good hearted loggers tried to clean it up a bit -- by clearing some of the windfall. Their honest efforts, however, seemed more an invasion of nature than a healing. Their cuttings left deep scars, cold and stark.

 I drove by, shook my head, and grumbled against the loggers.

 The burning followed. How the fire started is still a puzzle -- perhaps a lightening strike, an engine spark, or a careless cigarette. Regardless of the start, it took the firefighting volunteers a full effort for the finish. Acres of charred stubble marred the landscape.
I grumbled against the fire.

 But passing time has a way of healing scarred soil and human hearts. From blackened ground, new life emerges.

 Twelve seasons later, quite by accident, we happened upon the barren place and were amazed to find bushes loaded with raspberries -- and a new patch of wild blueberries growing near the earth!

We joyfully filled a couple of ice cream buckets with sweet treasure.

 Before dinner that evening, we bowed our heads, thanked our Creator for the berries and

Blessed the wind,
Blessed the loggers and
Blessed the fire.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Case of Emergency. . .

Are you encompassed with needs at this very moment, and almost overwhelmed with difficulties, trials, and emergencies?
These are all divinely provided vessels for the Holy Spirit to fill, and if you but rightly understood their meaning, they would become opportunities for receiving new blessings and deliverances which you can get in no other way.
--A. B. Simpson

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Remember

Things To Remember, Things to Forget

Are you forgetful? Absent minded? I like to think of it another way. We folks who forget things sometimes aren't really absent minded --we're full minded! Our minds are so full of wonderful thoughts, ideas, plans and inspirations, that some of them naturally leak out!

I've found that if I write down my plans, I'm much more likely to accomplish them. A "To Do" list really works -- especially if you remember to look at it!

Here are a couple of lists for you -- Things to Forget and Things to Remember.

Things to Forget
The bad stuff someone said about you.
The time you were overlooked or excluded.
The wonderful things you did for someone (which should have been noticed.)
How great (perfect) you are.
That you were right (I told you so!).
How bad "they" treated you.
Why you deserve to be first (or other special treatment).
Your grudges.
Your pet peeves.
The time someone disappointed you.
Your self-centered notions.

Things to Remember
To say "Thank You".
To express your love and affection.
The gestures of kindness others have shown to you.
That any success you achieve is due, at least in part, to others.
That God answers prayer.
That you are not God, so you don't have to control everything.
To do your homework.
To lend a helping hand.
That persistence pays off.
What brings true happiness (things money can't buy).
To seize the day and make the most of the moments.

Friday, May 25, 2012

It All Goes Back to John Wesley

Remember the bride's father in "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" who said, "Give me a word. . . any word . . . and I show you how the word is Greek?"

Well, for several years, I've been known to follow a similar monologue. . "It all goes back to Wesley!  Give me any person in American history and culture . . . any person . . . and I will show you how that person relates to John Wesley."

I haven't been stumped yet -- although I must admit, I've had to hop and stretch a few times to get there. 

My son, Wes, has been on a mission to discover a dead end street, but he hasn't prevailed yet.

Just recently, he wrote the following list on a pizza napkin, handed it to me and said, "OK Dad, show me how these people go back to John Wesley."

  • Stephen King, the suspense novelist
  • Stephen Hawking, the scientiest
  • Slash, the rock star
  • Jim Henson, the Muppeteer
  • Howard Taft, the president
  • Edgar Allen Poe, the 19th century horror author and poet
  • Mother Teresa, the saint.
Sometime over the next week, on this blog, I will reveal to Wes and the world, a direct pathway from each of these individuals, to the noted Anglican parson, and namesake of our beloved church, John Wesley (despite the fact that Stephen Hawking and Mother Teresa are not Americans.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Ways of Dealing with Controversy

I'm currently reading two biographies of early 20th century pastors -- one in the morning, and the other in the evening.

My morning reading is Fire in His Bones, biography of the great Toronto missionary advocate and revivalist, Oswald J. Smith.

My evening reading is The Shooting Salvationist, which gives the account of J. Frank Norris, of Forth Worth, America's first mega-church pastor and fundamentalist leader, who went on trial for shooting a man in his office.

Both men experienced significant controversy.  Smith used prayer and surrender as the primary means of dealing with it.  Norris, on the other hand, resorted to argument and aggression  (could he somehow be related to Chuck?)

I prefer the Smith method.

When I go to Toronto in July for a guest interview on 100 Huntley Street, my intention is to visit Oswald Smith's grave, and thank him for his influence and example.

Here's a poem written by Smith after a heartbreaking experience in his early days: 

Dwell Deep

"O lonely soul, dwell deep,
God plans thy life and He
Plans only what is best.
Dwell deep,
He watches thee."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Party of One

The other day, Ron McClung, of Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote the following piece based on an excerpt from my recently published book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose. I trust that it will shed some light and encourage you. By the way, I’ll be giving a presentation on “The Power of Story” at the Sherman and Ruth Weiss Community Library in Hayward on Thursday, May 31 at 6:30 p.m. Books will be available for $13.00
My wife and I walked into a restaurant the other day and the hostess said, “Party of two?” and I replied, “Yes, there are just the two of us.”
If I had been alone, I doubt if she would have asked, “Party of one?” because it’s hard to have a “party” by yourself, unless it’s a pity party – in which case you’re almost sure to be alone.
My friend, Mark Wilson, a pastor in northern Wisconsin, wrote a delightful book, Filled Up, Poured Out, in which he suggests four problems with pity parties:
1. There is no music.
If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you are not simultaneously giving thanks for the things he has done for you. As Mark says, “Nobody brings a banjo or accordion” or any other instrument. In your head, you might hear the melancholy strains of a lonely violin or the spooky sound of a dirge played on an organ. But in all likelihood, there’s just no music at all.
2. There are no refreshments.
Think about it: there’s nothing really refreshing about a pity party. Instead we dish up a “stew of rehashed offenses and complaints.”
3. There are no guests.
If you send out invitations to your pity party, I can almost guarantee no one will come. It’s true that misery loves company, but I have seldom seen people stand in line to spend time intentionally with those who chronically feel sorry for themselves.

4. There is no hope.
This is the saddest of all. As long as we feel sorry for ourselves, we are consumed with our problems, not looking for a brighter future.
The apostle Paul could have thrown a pity party, because he face huge difficulties in life. He was beaten several times, shipwrecked, faced danger from bandits, and others. He often went without sleep and suffered both hunger and thirst. Yet he said, “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV).
He could have had a pity party. If anyone had reason to feel sorry for himself, it was Paul. Yet he learned to trust the Lord and believe that in Christ better things lay ahead. So trust in the Lord. In your weakness, he can make you strong.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Something Harder Than The Change Process

The process of change is most difficult and painful -- but, living with the results of NOT changing is even harder.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Church Planters Should Read Filled Up, Poured Out

Filled Up, Poured Out is for church planters!

Phil Spry posted this excerpt from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out at, which is one of the greatest resources available for those involved in the hard work of launching new congregations:  The Cart Before the Horse.

Sample chapter here

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Computer Swallowed Grandma

The computer swallowed Grandma,

Yes, honestly it’s true!

She pressed 'control and 'enter'

And disappeared from view.

It devoured her completely,

The thought just makes me squirm.

She must have caught a virus

Or been eaten by a worm.

I've searched through the recycle bin

And files of every kind;

I've even used the Internet,

But nothing did I find.

In desperation, I asked Mr. Google

My searches to refine.

The reply from him was negative,

Not a thing was found 'online.'

So, if inside your 'Inbox,'

My Grandma you should see,

Please 'Copy, Scan' and 'Paste' her,

And send her back to me.

(Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Sandy, for forwarding this to me!)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5 Great Questions for Spiritual Formation

Reggie McNeal shared the following five important questions that give pastors a place to engage in people's spiritual formation.  Special thanks to Heath Davis who shared these with me recently:

1)  What do you enjoy doing?
2)  Where do you see God at work right now?
3)  What would you like to see God do in your life over the next 6 to 12 months?  How can we help?
4)  How would you like to serve other people?
5)  How can we pray for you?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Killkenny Cats and the Home Squabble

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1
 I used this verse in my sermon last Sunday, reminding the mothers to build up the house. Of course, this doesn’t apply to mothers. Anybody who lives in a house is responsible for the upbuilding.

 Wisdom builds the house. Foolishness tears it down.

 When we fail to think before we speak and act, we’re likely to tear the house down. We’ve been given two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion.

 Sometimes, in a passion to say right things, we say things wrong and hurt people. We’re wrong in our rightness, and unwilling to budge an inch in spirit. I think this is at the heart of the polarization in our state and nation. People are eager to share their opinions, but few are humble and patent enough to take the time to listen and understand others.

 Too many homes are marked by unhealthy conflict and misunderstanding. Sometimes, it’s just a slow simmer of frustration. Frequently, it leads to checking out, and giving less than one’s best. Occasionally, it erupts into full-scale, brutal warfare. In the squabble, hurtful and destructive things are spoken that can never been undone. Rash words in a fit of anger can destroy the very fabric of the relationship.

 As the old rhyme goes:

There once were two cats of Kilkenny.
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they fit,,
And they scratched and they bit
'Til excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats there weren’t any.

 Perhaps this is why Proverbs 19:11 reminds us it is “to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

 It’s very possible to win the battle (argument) and lose the war (relationship.) Here’s a question: Is what we’re fighting over worth the fight?

 Occasionally, it is. Sometimes, there is a significant principle or human right at stake, and only a good fight will set it straight. However, most of the time, our conflicts are over lesser things. We let our selfishness stand in the way, then hold stubbornly to our opinions as a “matter of honor.” Little issues become major eruptions when we stake our significance on them.

 Conflict is an emotional state, and the issue will not be resolved when either party is in that state. You can’t argue someone out of it. The only way to help another person move from the state of conflict is through kindness and patient understanding.

 Argument may force the other person into a corner, forcing him to agree – but it will only be a surface agreement, and definitely not be an agreement of hearts. As the old adage goes, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Here’s an idea: fight FOR your family instead of fighting against them. What dreams and hopes to you have for your family? What actions can you take to gently move in that direction? If you don’t do anything different, you will keep following the same path with the same patterns. I appreciate Andy Stanley’s observation, “Direction, not intention, equals destination.”

 Weigh your words. Bite your tongue. Think twice. Then, as Colossians 4:6 says, “let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you ay know how to answer everyone.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Breaking Beyond Words

"I, who live by words, am wordless when I try my words in prayer.  All language turns to silence.  Prayer will take my words and then reveal their emptiness. . . in this strange patterend time of contemplation that, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me, and then in silence, leaves me healed and mended."

-- Madeline L'Engle

Bad Company

One day Pastor Tim was at the Co-op Convenience Store, and ran into Budd, who was gathering supplies with a couple for a hunting trip out west.

"Budd, " Tim kidded, "Haven't I warned you to be careful about the kind of company you keep?"

"Yep," said Budd, " that's why we're going and you're not!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

N. T. Wright on What Is a Church

“It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for social justice. It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out….No church is like that all the time. But a remarkable number of churches are partly like that for quite a lot of time.”

NT Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, p. 123

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Note from a Reader with Good Sense

Received this nice note from a reader of my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  I think he's right about Cathy!
Just finished your book. Congratulations, you did a great job...Lots of work involved. The book is full of gems and nuggets to be mined. Much to think about and act upon.

But(there's always a but), the real pearls of wisdom come from Cathy.....She knows how to keep the train on the track, and put everything in perspective.

Thank you for a wonderful book.  --  Pete

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Adventures of Harold the Push Mower

Harold, the Push Mower had sat in the shed’s dark corner all winter long. After a happy season of weekly grass cuttings, he found himself unexpectedly drained and shoved aside. At first, Harold figured the situation was temporary – but the days turned into weeks, then months of dark, bitter cold.

He was fairly sure his master would come back for him any day, but as the long months unfolded, Harold began to wonder. He felt abandoned, rejected, and useless.

“Am I being punished? If so, what did I do wrong?”

“I was created to mow grass. Why can’t I just get out there and do what I was made to do?”

“Did my master forget about me? Has he found another mower that he likes better?”

“Maybe I’m washed up. Are memories all I have left of good days?”

Thus, Harold pondered and philosophized in the corner of the shed.

Then, one day, the door opened, and bright sunlight filled the little, windowless room. His master stood in the doorway. Harold rejoiced as his master strode directly towards him. “Well, little fellow,” his master said, “we have some work to do.”

Oh, the joy that flooded Harold’s heart! He hadn’t been forgotten after all – just set aside for a while. “I’m ready to roll!” he beamed, “Let’s rev up my motor and get going!”

 But wait – instead of pulling on the starter cord, his master pushed him silently to the old pick up truck. Gently the master lifted him, and placed him in the bed.

“Where are we going?” Harold wondered. “Are we’re going to have some grass cutting adventures in other places? Maybe I’ll be a world traveler!”

 But, alas, that was not the case. They went to the lawn mower shop. Harold was confused. “Why am I here?” he wondered. “What does this place have to do with me cutting grass?”

A kind gentleman removed Harold from the truck and pushed him into a garage as the master drove away. “Where are you going?” Harold cried. “I thought we were going to cut grass together!” “Why are you leaving me here?” It was a strange and frightening place.

In a few minutes, Harold found himself in the worst situation he’d ever experienced. First, the kind gentleman dismantled him completely – scrubbing and scraping. “Ouch! Ouch! Stop it!” Harold protested.

Then the kind gentleman turned on a grinder, and lifted it next to Harold’s blades. It was terrifying!

“What on earth are you doing?” Harold shrieked. “Are you trying to kill me?” At this point, he was convinced the kind gentleman was not so kind after all.

The grinding hurt. It was excruciating – producing the most severe pain he had ever endured.

Just as Harold concluded he couldn’t take it longer, the grinding stopped. The kind-unkind-gentleman put him back together again and tied a tag on his handle that said, “ready.”

Exhausted, Harold fell asleep, and awoke in the back of his master’s truck. They were heading home.

Upon arrival, Harold’s master lifted him out of the truck, set him on the ground and smiled. He pulled the starter cord, and Harold’s engine purred.

“OK little fellow,” the master said, “now we’re ready to cut some grass.”

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sermon Preparation

Samuel Brengle was once asked, "If you had but ten minutes to prepare for a meeting (sermon), how would you spend it?"  To this Brengle replied, "In prayer."

A ministerial student asked, "What preparation do you make in preaching?"

Brengle replied:

"My lifetime has been a preparation for preaching.  But, more particularly, I prepare my sermons for others by preparing my own heart.  In this, prayer and Bible study are the chief factors.  When I read books other than the Bible, they are read not that parts of them might be included in my address, but to enrich my own thought and to quicken and inspire my faith.  Thus, I spend a great deal of time preparing myself for preaching.  Many make the mistake of giving more time to the preparation of their addresses than to the preparation of their own hearts, affections, emotions and faith; the result often is beautiful, brilliant words that have the same effect as holding up glittering icicles before a freezing man.  To warm others -- and is not that your purpose in preaching? -- keep the fire buring hot in your own soul."

-- from Samuel Logan Brengle:  Portrait of a Prophet by Clarence W. Hall

Friday, May 04, 2012

Working in the Power of the Holy Spirit

"Satan is not necessarily opposed to all Christian work.  He cares little how zealously we busy ourselves at good things so long as we do not work in the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is often pleased if we work so hard and so long that we begin to fret and worry.  He is happy if we undertake more work than we can saturate with prayer.  He would not seriously oppose if every Christian were a tireless worker -- so long as he worked only in his human energy and was not empowered and anointed by the Spirit of God."

--  Wesley L. Duewel

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Empty Promises

I recently read a wonderful new book by Pete Wilson called Empty Promises:  The Truth About You, Your Desires and the Lies You're Believing.

In a direct, practical and compelling manner, Wilson takes on the false idols we set up in our hearts, where Jesus, alone should reign.

At first glance, when I noted that Wilson is writing about addictions, I thought he was referring to obvious ones:  alcohol, drugs, and pornography -- so thought I was safely out of range.

But then, he hammers the reader with a challenge to confront the more "respectable" addictions such as approval, achievement, power, money, religion and beauty.  Ouch!!  It's a good ouch, however.

Warning: the reader should wear steel toed shoes

This book would make a great small group Bible study, and is a valuable resource for those serious about growing in their faith.

(a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher for review on this blog.)

Leadersip Maxims

A few thoughts about leadership. . .

 The first lesson of leadership is followership. If you don’t know how follow, you won’t know how to lead.

 “He that thinketh he leadeth, and hath no one following him, is only taking a walk.” – Chinese proverb.

 “If you are a leader, exert yourself to lead.” – Romans 12:8 (NEB)

 “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

 “The only way to herd cats is to get them chasing the same mouse.” -- Cathy Wilson

 “If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – Zig Ziglar

 Authority does not make you a leader, it gives you the opportunity to be one.” – anonymous

 Not all readers are effective leaders, but all effective leaders are readers.

 “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” -- Stephen Covey

 “Motivation differs from manipulation according to the spirit of the leader, the attitude of the follower, and the big picture of why we’re doing this.” – Filled Up, Poured Out.

 Leadership depends on the ability to make people want to follow voluntarily.

 Life is a series of ups and downs, beginning with learning to walk.

 Action is the only true test of ability.

 We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.

 “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do better.” – Jim Rohn

 “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” – Thomas Paine

 “There is only one person you are called to control – yourself.” -- Filled Up., Poured Out.

 The difference between good ideas and good productivity is good management.”

 Influence by example rather than mere words.

 Criticize by doing.

The best investment you can make as a leader is hard work.

 The leadership challenge is to “get people to do what they don’t want to do to achieve what they want to achieve.” -- Tom Landry

 “True leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.” -- John Maxwell

“Humbuggery is what leaders to when they fail to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance” – Filled Up, Poured Out

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Smile Through the Trouble

 It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble,
And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth
Is the smile that shines through tears.

-- from the poem, Worth While, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox