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Showing posts from February, 2015

25 Self Reflection Questions

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1. What is the "hub" of your life? (The central theme)
2. If someone were to look at your calendar and checkbook, what would they discover about your priorities? 
3. What is your single greatest strength?
4. What is your earliest memory from childhood? Is there any connection between this memory and your life today? 
5. Where do you invest your most significant emotional energy?
6. What role does God, prayer, the Bible, and church play in your life? 
7. What "turns your crank"? What do you love to do? 
8. Regarding the above question -- Are you carving out time to do it? If not -- Why not? 
9. What holds you back from being your best? 
10. Who has had the most significant influence upon your life?
11. Are you happy with the condition of your inner life?
12. When do you "recharge" your emotional and spiritual batteries?
13. Are there any unresolved issues poisoning your mind and heart?
14. Have you forgiven everybody as far as you know?
15. Is there any restitution you …

My Greatest Spiritual Task

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“The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world–free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless…. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.” -- Henri Nouwen
"Don't wrestle -- just nestle." -- Corrie Ten Boom

Funny Irish Song Why Paddy's Not at Work Today

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Cowbells for Hermann

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In honor of the 42nd Birkie today, I am re-posting this delightful story from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

Hayward is home of the American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross country ski race. 10,500 skiers come from almost every state and many nations to compete in this world-class event. Spectators line snow-covered Main Street, ringing cowbells and cheering weary skiers across the finish line.

For two decades, I've been a Birkie cowbell ringer.

A day or two before the Birkebeiner, I always pine a little, wishing I had pulled the skis from the rafters and joined the throng of brave souls testing the limits of their endurance. But, as Birkie day arrives, I find myself content to ring cowbells. After all, if everybody skied the Birkie, there wouldn't be anybody left to cheer.

Normally, we ring in the elite skiers who finish first. Usually the winner is some Olympic European who hardly broke a sweat. I’m always impressed.

The best part of the race, though, is …

God Gets Better as He Goes

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A little girl, sitting on Grandpa's lap as he read her a bedtime story, asked  "Grandpa, did God make you?"

"Yes, sweetheart," he answered, "God made me a long time ago."

"Oh," she paused, "Grandpa, did God make me too?"

"Yes, indeed, honey," he said, "God made you just a little while ago."

"God's getting better at it, isn't he ?"

God Misrepresented

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"Revival is when God gets so tired of being misrepresented, he shows himself." -- Leonard Ravenhill

Lutefisk, Lent and Great Faith

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In honor of Ash Wednesday, I'm re-posting the following story from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out:  How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.

Northern Wisconsin is Lutheran and Catholic territory, and this means two things: Lutefisk before Christmas, and Lent before Easter. I didn’t know much about either growing up. Until moving to Hayward, I had never heard of Lutefisk, and figured Lent was stuff you trap in the dryer.

Living in the Northwoods, I’ve discovered that Lutefisk is a piece of cod that passes all understanding. (Actually, it’s a rather unappetizing, gelatinous Nordic dish made from dried, salted whitefish and lye.) We’ll let the Lutherans keep it.

Lent, however, is something we’ve happily pilfered from our more liturgical brethren. We start with Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter. I smudge ashes on the foreheads of willing parishioners, repeating, “From dust you’ve come, to dust you shall return.”

For a few years, I drove over to St. Joe’s a c…

Training Only Goes So Far

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"The question I want you to consider is simply this: Which is more important, the birth or the training? I suggested what training can do and what it cannot do. And so the matter comes down to this: the nature we have is the one we were born with. Training can go so far, but birth, especially the new birth, establishes the true nature. And this is the difference between what I will call “denominational churchianity” and true Christianity. We are training people every week to be good church people. But when left to themselves, they will revert to their real nature and act like themselves. They have been trained to act like a good Christian on Sunday, but it is only an act. The rest of the week they act like themselves, naturally."

-- A. W. Tozer, "Experiencing the Presence of God"

To Love is to Be Vulnerable

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"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wronged and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no-one - not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements with others. Lock it up safely in the coffin or casket of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not become broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell."   -- C. S. Lewis

A Good Marriage Requires Star Dust

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Several years ago, while straightening up after a wedding rehearsal, I found a candy valentine heart lying near the altar.

"Hmmm", I thought, "Maybe there's a little nugget here for tomorrow's wedding sermon." I was hoping to find one of the old standard phrases such as "Love Forever", "Truly Yours", or "Ever Devoted". Instead, I was disappointed to find that this little green heart said, "Star Dust." "Star Dust?" I exclaimed, "Good grief! Who thinks up this stuff anyhow? They were scraping the bottom of the barrel with that one!  How on earth can I use Star Dust in a wedding sermon?"  Here's how I figured it out:
Unfortunately, too many people have a "Star Dust" view of love. They think there's some magical poof from Cupid, and they'll live happily ever after. Before long, however, the "Star Dust" turns to "Star Wars." Marriages may be made in heaven, bu…

Finney's Great Refreshing

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". . . that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." -- Acts 3:19

Ministry is so intense when you put your whole heart into it, that it automatically leads to depletion. We must have continual refreshings from the Lord in order to flourish.  Without the inner refreshing, ministry becomes a heavy burden.  There is no greater frustration than serving from an empty soul.

Soul work is hard work.  It takes time, effort and courage to make the necessary space for prayer and inner reflection.   It's much easier to hit the ground running full speed ahead -- tackling "to do" lists, and responding to demands, duties and details.   We accomplish many tasks on the run -- but the great question at the end of the day is "am I doing the most important thing?  How is it with my soul?"

There is never enough of us to go around, and so the work always remains undone.  There are always more people to serve, more projects to undertake, more loose ends to tie up.  Thi…

Four Ingredients for Having a Good Day

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Would you like to have a good day?  It's possible.

My friend, Stan Toler, recently shared the following insights on the subject, and  graciously granted me permission to share them with you:

Not everyone can have a great day. The sun doesn't always shine. Factually, the customer isn't always right. The traffic lights aren't always in sync. BUT, EVERYONE CAN HAVE A GOOD DAY. Let me give you 4 ingredients for having a good day.

1. DO SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO DO.
Nothing puts a cloud over a sunny day any more than mind-wrestling a To-Do list. Go ahead and get crankin’ on that to-do item staring at you like a mean dog. At least start on it. Take a small step, it may prompt another. Doing all or part of something that needs to be done is a push toward the finish.

2. DO SOMETHING YOU LIKE TO DO.
Your day isn't complete until you've done something for yourself. That’s not selfish, it’s actually generous. When you reward yourself with doing something you like to do, you’ll be i…

The Long-Haul Measuring Stick is Character

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A few years ago, our family visited the birthplaces of two famous Americans on the same day - inventor, Thomas Edison and former president, Warren G. Harding.

When we arrived in Milan, Ohio, we immediately noticed that they were proud of their native son, Thomas Edison. A big sign on the edge of the small village proclaimed this was his birthplace. A statue of Edison graced the public square in the center of town. His family home had been restored, with a museum dedicated to his honor. Even the street lights were erected in Edison's memory, as was the Edison Family Restaurant, and the Edison Memorial Methodist Church.

Leaving Milan, I remarked that those folks sure were proud of Thomas Edison - especially considering the fact that he moved away in early childhood.

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Blooming Grove, Ohio, where Warren G. Harding was born.

We were surprised to discover the only thing denoting Harding's birth was an insignificant, faded historical marker langu…

Small Church Pastors Need Both Skis

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Pastoral work glides on two skis:  leading and loving -- and love is always the lead ski.

I used to think that loving was the only ski required for an effective small church pastorate.  But that is not the case.  Most small church parishioners want their pastor to take them somewhere.  They desire to make a difference for eternity rather than merely going around in circles.  They long for life, energy, spiritual passion and momentum.  They want to see something happen!
It is a myth that members of small congregations don't want change.  Except for a few dysfunctional power brokers, saints in small churches don't want to settle for status-quo.  As Carey Nieuwhof says, "most people actually want change.  They just want well-led change."  (And some of the "dysfunctional power brokers are just good-hearted folk who love their church too much to let it be hijacked by stupidity.)
Resistance to pastoral leadership in a small church is almost always a matter of trust. …

Working Hard vs Hard Work

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There is a huge difference between working hard and doing the hard work.  By keeping ourselves busy with overwhelming responsibilities, a multitude of tasks, and packed schedules, we have an excuse for avoiding difficult conversations and hard decisions.
If things are sagging, don't defend yourself by pointing out how hard you are working.  Instead, ask yourself whether or not you've been avoiding the hard work.

The Beautiful Melting of Christmas Evans

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This morning, while reading one of my old favorites, The Revival We Need, by Oswald Smith, I came upon this delightful passage from the great Welsh minister, Christmas Evans.  What a beautiful reminder!

"I was weary of a cold heart towards Christ and His sacrifice, and the work of His Spirit---of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer, and in study, for fifteen years previously, I had felt my heart burning within, as if going to Emmaus with Jesus.

"On a day ever to be remembered by me, as I was climbing up towards Cadair Idris, I considered it to be incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt in my heart, and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus, I soon felt, as it were, the fetters loosening, and the old hardness of heart softening, and, as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me.

"This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt my whole mind relieved from …