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Showing posts from May, 2014

Through the Upper Window, You'll See Me Standing By

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I awoke this morning with an old gospel song playing in my head:  Through the Upper Window.  What a beautiful truth for us.  Regardess of the storms we may encounter in life, we can still look up and see our loving Lord.
Here's a link to the song from The Singing Cooks.
When God spoke unto Noah, and told him to build the ark,
The Lord knew well the vessel would cheerless be and dark,
So God said, build a window, with outlook toward the sky,
That when it’s dark and lonesome, you’ll see Me standing by.Refrain:
The storms will come, but fear not, oh, children, I am nigh,
And through the upper window, you’ll see Me standing by.It may be that affliction will rack and rend your frame,
Until your mortal body is seared with fevered flame,
But do not be discouraged, just lift your tear-dimmed eye,
And through the upper window, you’ll see Me standing by.Perhaps you’ll suffer losses, like houses, lands, and gold,
And you will feel you’re homeless, and penniless, and old;
But sweetest peace and comfort w…

Dogs Saying Grace

My dog Vin must be a pagan.  He's not willing to do this.


Can You Hear Me Now?

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I'm biting the bullet and buying hearing aids this week. When the audiologist tested my ears, she said my deafness falls in the range of female voices. That explains a lot! I joke that Cathy talks twice as much as she used to, because she has to say everything twice.

Hopefully, my hearing aids will help both of us, and will at least eliminate one of my excuses.

Hearing loss is definitely a challenge. It takes tremendous concentrated energy to listen and understand. I am often utterly exhausted after conversations and meetings, because the simple act of hearing requires so much work.

I'm looking forward to my hearing aids, but dread the "old man" stigma that accompanies them. I hope to simply smile and be a happy old man. At least I'll hear what you're saying. Happiness comes through acceptance.

Cathy says I'm a better listener these days. "When you lean in to listen, I know you are paying attention and working hard to understand me. I think …

How Gentle God's Commands

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A friend recently gave me a small paperback World War I Service Songbook for my hymnal collection. What a treasure!

Leafing through the pages, I reflected on our young men, serving America in muddy trenches on the front lines of France. I imagined how, in quiet moments, the weary soldiers gathered around the chaplain for a brief time of worship. I pictured them opening up these little red books, and drawing a good measure of comfort and strength.

Several songs held significant meaning. I was especially drawn to the beautiful lyrics by Philip Doddridge, "How Gentle God's Commands" (sung to tune of "Blest Be the Tie that Binds")

How gentle God's commands;
how kind his precepts are.
Come cast your burdens on the Lord
and trust his constant care.

Beneath his watchful eye
his saints securely dwell.
That hand which bears all nature up
shall guard his children well.

His goodness stands approved,
unchanged from day to day.
I'll drop my burden at his feet
and b…

Sacred Pathways

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In my sermon this morning, I mentioned a great book, Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.  It is an outstanding resource for understanding how you (and others) are wired spiritually to best relate with God.

Here's a cool self-assessment to discover which Sacred Pathway is most natural to you.

Greg Boyd on Good-Newsing

The Spectacular is in the Ordinary

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In searching for God, many people tend to look for the miraculous and supernatural. Instead, we should be attending to the ordinary,
-- Philip Yancy

My note: This is true in marriage and family life as well. It's the day to day interactions of thoughtfulness that count.

Just Hop Forward!

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The Australian coat of arms includes the images of a kangaroo and an emu.

These were chosen because of one characteristic both creatures have in common. They both can move in only one direction -- forward! (Ever seen a kangaroo hop backwards?)

They are able to bend their heads and look in all directions -- but they don't have a "reverse". They don't move backwards.

Wouldn't it be great if we were all kangaroo/emu people? We'd be able to look around, look back -- and learn!

St. Augustine said, "We live forward, but we only understand backwards."

In other words, what we've experienced in the past helps us to understand our present situation -- and our future direction.

Gaining insight from the past, however, is much different than living in the past.

The past is a lot like the dumps of Tijuana -- an interesting place to visit -- but I sure don't want to live there!

Kangaroo/Emu people have one direction -- forward! Going backwards is no optio…

How to Live in Prayer

Here are two ways to live "In Prayer":

1. Spirit of Prayer: This is a day by day, moment by moment awareness of God's presence -- maintaining a prayerful attitude throughout all the day's interactions.

2. Seasons of Prayer: Setting apart extended time to pray deeply. This may be a daily time of solitude with your Savior.  It also applies to getting away for a day (or half day, or two days, etc) for prayerful reflection -- hearing from the Lord.

Outside Holiness

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I loved this prayer by George MacLeod, during the rebuilding of the Iona Abbey in Scotland.  Special thanks to Loretta Sunderland, who shared it in church yesterday:


It is not just the interior of these walls,  it is our own inner beings you have renewed. We are Your temple not made with hands. We are Your body. If every wall should crumble, and every church decay, we are your habitation. Nearer are you than breathing, closer than hands and feet. Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery, look out in compassion on the world. So we bless you for this place, for your directing of us, your redeeming of us, and your indwelling. Take us 'outside the camp', Lord. Outside holiness, out to where the soldiers gamble, and the thieves curse, and the nations clash at the cross-roads of the world...
So shall this building continue to be justified.

The Difference Between Trees and Brush Piles

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Making brush piles this morning, I recall the following account shared by former Wesleyan leader, Dr. Oliver G. Wilson:

"Driving across the plains of Kansas where there are but few trees, I saw in the distance what appeared to be the outline of one of those scrub oaks for which this particular part of Kansas is noted. As I drew nearer, however, and the object began to take form, I said to myself, “Not a tree, only a brush-pile.”

This started a line of thinking: Just what is the difference between a brush-pile and a tree?

The brush pile lacks two essentials: life and organization.

It might be that at one time this brush-pile by the Kansas highway had been a beautiful tree. It may be that it produced shade and possibly food for weary travelers who chanced to pass that way.

What had caused the change? Something had destroyed its life and had broken down its organization. At one time it had been symmetrical and beautiful. Now, it was a mass of tangled sticks.

There are individuals whose l…

Consider This Before Your Fight

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“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.”  
-- Proverbs 14:1

 Of course, this doesn’t apply to just to women. Every family member is responsible for the upbuilding, and is capable of tearing it apart.

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 gi…

I Praise the Dance Like Augustine

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In light of Hayward's first annual Father Daughter Ball last Saturday, I share these words from St. Augustine:
I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.
I praise the dance, which demands everything: health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.

Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people, who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.

Dancing demands a whole person, one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life, who is not obsessed by lust for people and things and the demon of isolation in his own ego.

Dancing demands a freed person, one who vibrates with the equipoise of all his powers.

I praise the dance.

O man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.

-- Saint Augustine

Ancient Prayers

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Explaining our new MorningSong worship service to my friend, Bob, I said,  "It will be a fresh expression of old traditions.  We will read passages from both Testaments, sing the great hymns, have communion every Sunday and recite ancient prayers."

"Ancient prayers?"  Bob replied, "How about Luke 18:11?   'God, I thank you that I am not like other people -- robbers, evildoers -- an even this tax collector.'"

"I think we will skip that ancient prayer."

Just because it's old doesn't mean it's good.

Andrew Murray's Favorite Hymn

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The great devotional writer, Andrew Murray's favorite hymn was Moment By Moment:

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
Refrain
Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I’m under His care.

Refrain
Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

Refrain
Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus my Savior, abides with me still.

(Thank you Eunice LaCoy for sharing this with me.  We're going to sing it soon at our MorningSong service.)

Four Secrets for Effective Communication

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Communication is to love what blood is to the body. When it ceases to flow, love dies, and rigor mortis of resentment sets in.

The ancient prophet, Amos, asked the rhetorical question, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"

Bob, walking by his neighbor's house, saw him struggling with a couch halfway in the front door. He walked up to his friend and asked, "Hey Fred, need a hand?"

"Sure!" came the reply, "I'm glad you stopped by. This has been a real challenge,"

So, he grabbed the end of the couch and started pushing -- but it wouldn't budge an inch. For about twenty minutes, both men struggled and strained as hard as they could, but made absolutely no progress.

Finally, dropping the couch from exhaustion, Bob said, "You know, Fred, this is just crazy! I can't understand why it's so hard for us to get this couch into the house."

"Into the house??" Fred replied, "I've been trying to push it OUT o…

Take Your Job and Love It!

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According to Gallup, 71% of American workers hate their jobs (other polls even claim figures as high as 80%.) Now, with so much job hating going around, and it seems like something should be done about it.
If you hate your job, then you are the somebody who should do something about it. Things won’t get better if you just sit around wishing it would.
Now, I understand that some work environments are toxic and intolerable. In situations like that, the best thing you can do is seek an exit strategy. If you really hate your job that bad, then look for another one.
Often, however, job dissatisfaction has much more to do with the worker’s attitude, than a dysfunctional environment. It is with this basis of understanding that I propose the following suggestions for learning to love your job:
1.  Examine your attitude. Are you allowing negativity to poison your spirit towards those you work with? If so, the problem may be more about you than it is about them.
2.  Start your day with prayer. Ask G…

Christ is Where the Action Is

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God, forgive me when I shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed in the things in front of me.  Teach me to know that Christ is where the action is.

God, I’m serious about practising resurrection and I choose to act like it. I choose to pursue the things, over which Christ presides.  Teach me to know that Christ is where the action is.

God, I choose to be alert to your presence and present to your alertness. I choose to lift my eyes to the horizon to see things from your perspective.  Teach me to know that Christ is where the action is.

Amen

(A Prayer by Matt Long)

Perfect Mothers Day Gift

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A frazzled mother continually complained about her stress level. "I just need some peace and quiet!" she groaned. So, for Mother's Day, her daughter Jessica went to the florist shop and returned proudly carrying the perfect gift for her mother. The arrangement included a bow inscribed, "Rest in Peace."

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, in their groundbreaking book Jesus Manifesto, said, "Knowing Christ as your rest and allowing Him to live His life through you is one of the most freeing things you can know as a Christian" They continue, "Resting in Christ doesn't mean being passive. It means allowing the Lord to do the heaving lifting."

My favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, sums up what Paul called the "secret of being content": "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The secret to contentment is indeed about dying—but to truly rest in peace, we must die to self and rest in Him.

An excerpt from Filled …

Gone Fishin'

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The Wholehearted Church Planter

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I recently received a complimentary copy of The Wholehearted Church Planter for review on this blog (via Net Galley) and found it to be a refreshing surprise.  Instead of a bunch of leadership tips and suggestions for creating flashy events, authors, Allan Karr and Linda Bergquist say the key to effective church planting is spiritual.

The secret to launching a vital congregation is for the leaders to live in the overflow of holy character and love.  It is about passion for Christ rather than personality or programs.   I deeply appreciate this rich and biblical challenge to put first things first and to minister reflectively.

The Difference Between Average and Very Good Fishermen

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I once heard lengendary Hall of Fame angler, Al Lindner, speak about the difference between average and very good fishermen. He said there are four things that set them apart.  As I listened, I thought there are some direct applications for pastors who are "fishing for people!"

An excellent fisherman. . .

1. Really Knows the Target Species of Fish. They understand the subtle differences. For instance, muskies and northern are both pikes, and are similar in many ways, but there are also some major differences. The good fishermen recognize these differences, and approach them accordingly.

* In your ministry, do you really know and understand your target audience?
* Are you sensitive to the needs, hopes and desires of various kinds of people?

2. Has a Good Understanding of Basic Seasonal Movements. These are somewhat predictable.
* What are the basic seasonal movements in your community? In the life cycle?
* How can you use this to maximize impact?

3.. Knows the Key to Success an…

How to Increase Your Joy

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There's a big difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness depends on "happenings". If good things happen, we're happy. If bad things happen - we're sad or angry.

Joy, on the other hand, is a deep abiding sense of contentment. It remains strong and steady regardless of the situation.

You can possess joy and still have moments of unhappiness. You can experience some happy moments, without knowing the deeper joy.

Many people try to capture joy by chasing fleeting moments of happiness. Movies, amusement parks, sky diving, accomplishments, alcohol, popularity, food and relationships are just a few of the activities individuals pursue to create some "artificial joy." The problem is that these things do not provide a cure for emptiness of the heart. They just distract us for a while.

Some folks have what John Maxwell calls "destination disease" - believing real happiness will come in the future . . .
When I get married
When I graduate
When I'm promot…