Showing posts from November, 2014

The Exchanged Life

Recently, in a sermon, I shared this beautiful letter from the great missionary,  J. Hudson Taylor to his sister, Amelia, dated October 17, 1869.   It expresses the joy and depths of what it means to be one with Christ:

My own dear Sister— So many thanks for your long, dear letter... I do not think you have written me such a letter since we have been in China. I know it is with you as with me—you cannot, not you will not. Mind and body will not bear more than a certain amount of strain, or do more than a certain amount of work. As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps, the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful—and yet, all is new! In a word, "Whereas once I was blind, now I see." Perhaps I…

God's Blanket

Awakening to a beautiful blanket of snow this morning, I was reminded of these words from Edwin M. Johnson, legendary Northwoods poet:

God laid a blanket on the hills last night,
A quilt all fluffy, downy and white,
He tucked the edges round flowers asleep,
Warned the litte one burrowed down deep,
Not to awaken until the Spring,
When thrush and robin and bluebird sing.

Yes, God unfurled a blanket last night,
And He looked on earth and loved the sight,
The spruce and the flowers fell asleep with a nod,
I think they were thankful for the goodness of God.
When I saw how He tenderly cared for a tree,
I just knew He would care for you and me.

(This beautiful picture of the trail in winter woods was taken by my friend, Sue Bartz.)

Seven Ways to Cultivate a Thankful Heart

Do you have a tank-full of thankful?  Here are seven ways to cultivate gratitude in your heart:

1)  Be grateful for what you have, rather than ungrateful for what you don’t have.
2)  Declare war on petty negativism.  (Most of our pet peeves are just petty.)
3)  Keep Jesus at the center and refuse to focus on garbage.
4)  Look for the blessing  (You might have to dig, but you will find it somewhere.)
5)  Quit comparing yourself with others.  (The only person you should compare yourself with is the person you used to be.
6)  Change the channel.  (Life's situations are being interpreted by two broadcasts in your mind --
Channel P -- the Postive Channel and Channel N -- the Negative Channel.  You possess the remote control.)
7)  Go out and bless somebody.  (When you make others happy, you make yourself happy.)

Alphabet Soup for the Soul

A lthough things are not perfect 
B ecause of trial or pain 
C ontinue in thanksgiving 
D o not begin to blame 
E ven when the times are hard 
F ierce winds are bound to blow 
G od is forever able 
H old on to what you know 
I magine life without His love 
oy would cease to be 
K eep thanking Him for all the things 
L ove imparts to thee 
M ove out of "Camp Complaining" 
N o weapon that is known 
O n earth can yield the power 
P raise can do alone 
Q uit looking at the future 
R edeem the time at hand 
S tart every day with worship 
T o "thank" is a command 
U ntil we see Him coming 
V ictorious in the sky 
W e'll run the race with gratitude 
X alting God most high 
Y es, there'll be good times and yes some will be bad, but... 
Z ion waits in glory...where none are ever sad!

(author unkown -- sent to me by my sister-in-law, Sandy Wilson)

Discipleship is a Slow Cooking Process

A profound post from Dan White Jr.'s blog, The Holy Mess:  Missional-Marinating.

Sometimes, in our hurry to build a great, effective ministry, driven pastors end up making a bad stew.  We can't rush discipleship -- it requires patience.

It Takes a Re-Visioning Pastor to Turn a Church Around

Just finished Re:Vision: The Key to Transforming Your Church, by Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon E. Penfield.   Re:Vision is a helpful resource for pastors and supervisors of congregations who desire to turn plateaued or declining congregations around.

Their primary point is that turnaround (growth) of a declining congregation is based primarily on two things:
1.  The capacity of the pastor to lead change
2.  The willingness of the congregation to embrace it.

Through extensive research, Penfield and Malphurs discovered significant differences between re-envisioning and non-re-envisioning pastors.    Using such instruments as Myers-Briggs and the DISC profile, they found a direct correlation between the personality of the pastor and potential for congregational transformation.

Re:Vision is primarily a tool for assessing whether or not the pastor has the capacity to lead such change.

This, of course, raises an important question:  the elephant in the room.  What if pastors do not have this …

Four Leadership Capabilities

Researchers from MIT broke down leadership into four capabilities:

1. Sensemaking (understanding the context in which an organization and its people operate)
2. Relating (building relationships within and across organizations)
3. Visioning (creating a compelling picture of the future)
4. Inventing (developing new ways to achieve the vision)

Few people excel in all four areas -- but effective leaders bring other members onto the team, who bring their complementing strengths to the bigger picture.

Now That is a Long Winded Preacher

Pastor Zach Zehnder just broke the world record for the longest sermon:  53 hours and 18 minutes.  I've preached a few sermons that felt that long.

Feed the Goose!

A while back, I awoke in the middle of the night with an  inspiring thought racing through my mind.

"Honey, wake up!" I said, "I just had a marvelous thought!

""Hmmnn? Whuzzat? Marvelous thought?", Cathy mumbled.

"Do you want to hear it?" I asked eagerly.

"Sure, might as well, now that I'm awake." said Cathy.

"Feed the Goose! We've gotta Feed the Goose!"

"What?? You woke me up from good sleep for that? What do you mean -- feed the goose?"

"I don't know, but it's a wonderful thought!" I beamed.
"Go back to sleep," said Cathy.
But my mind kept racing. . .
Feed the goose. Feed the goose. What in the world does that mean?

Then the light clicked on in my little brain -- aha! If you have a goose that lays golden eggs, your most important job is to feed the goose.

Don't get so busy gathering the eggs that you forget to take care of the one laying them!

What is your mission in life? What are you …

Not I, But Christ

"Not I, but Christ" be honored, loved, exalted;
"Not I, but Christ" be seen, be known, be heard;
"Not I, but Christ" in every look and action;
"Not I, but Christ" in every thought and word.

"Not I, but Christ" to gently soothe in sorrow;
"Not I, but Christ" to wipe the falling tear;
"Not I, but Christ" to lift the weary burden;
"Not I, but Christ" to hush away all fear.

 -- Herald of His Coming

The Unspoken Meaning of "Stupid Idiot" Notes

"Stupid idiot! Who taught you how to park?"

It was a pencil-scrawled, unsigned love letter, tucked beneath my windshield wiper.

Sheepishly, I looked around the parking lot for Mr. Anonymous, to no avail, feeling like a fool.
Yes my vehicle had crossed slightly into the next parking space, but that was because the guy beside me was double parked too.  He was long gone, leaving my awkwardly parked minivan as the target of nasty notes from poisened pencils.

"Stupid Idiot?" Me? It wasn't my fault! How dare he?" I fumed, "What kind of stupid idiot would write an anonymous letter calling me a stupid idiot?"

Then, something I heard long ago dawned on me.  Hurting people hurt people.  It must be a seething, boiling, cauldron of pain erupting into this nasty note.
A certain melancholy shadowed my heart, as I pondered what sort of difficulties and struggles my "stupid idiot" friend must be enduring. "He's just lashing out," I told myself,…

The Fear That Everything Has Already Been Done

Obligation or Opportunity?

"Aw, nuts!" I grumbled to no one in particular as I looked out the picture window upon fourteen inches of newfallen snow.   "Fourteen inches of obligation!"

My kids looked out the same window.

"Yippee!" they shouted, and rushed to put on their snow clothes.

For them it was fourteen inches of opportunity!

Same snow -- two completely different perspectives. I wish I could think more like my kids.

I wish, my first response to winter would be snow angels rather than shovels.

When severe adulthood squeezes out childish play, the snow becomes an unpleasant burden.  As the old Christmas carol, "In the Bleak Midwinter" laments, "Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow. . ."

I muttered something about "bleak midwinter" to my wife Cathy. She rebuked me gently. "It's not so bleak, honey. In fact, it's like a beautiful post card out there! Just look, the snow sparkles like diamonds!"

I suppose beauty lies in the eye…

George Had Problems

George had problems -- lots of problems.

George had problems with his wife.  She was too demanding.
George had problems with his daughter.  She was too whiney.
George had problems with his teenage son.  He was too irresponsible.
George had problems with his boss.  He was too controlling.
George had problems with his co-workers.  They were too opinionated.
George had problems with his next door neighbor.  He as too chatty.
George had problems with his mother-in-law.  She was too nosey.
George had problems with people at church.  They were too hypocritical.
George had problems with the grocery store cashier.  She was too slow.
George had problems with the barber.  He cut it too close.
George had problems with his children's teachers.  They were too strict.
Problems, problems problems.  Poor George wondered why he had so many.
Too bad he never did figure out what everybody else knew all along. .  .
George was the problem.