Category "Life With God"

What A Wonderful World

For the past 8 weeks, our church has been in a sermon series called “Unchained Joy” – looking at the book of Philippians, half a chapter  each Sunday. The most cheerful book of the Bible was written from a first-century prison cell—and it reminds us that despite our difficulties, there is a joy that runs deep.

We have God’s joy in our blood. —Frederick Buechner

The series has come at a particularly “good” time for me personally (good, not in the sense that all is well, but in the sense that the timing is good because all is not well). While walking through some difficult things—betrayals of friendship and painful losses—the “Unchained Joy” series has allowed me to preach to myself as I am sharing with the church.

The most helpful discovery of today has been that right in the midst of my sorrows there is always room for joy. Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house. —Macrina Wiederkehr

We often create what we call… Read More

Role Reversal Communion Had Me Crying

- - Life With God, Uncategorized

At YOUTH last night, Pastor Andy gave a message about belonging. He talked about his love of the Muppets – particularly how they are such a collection of oddballs and misfits, but they somehow belong together.

He also shared the passage from the book of Acts where Peter has a vision from God – and describes it like this: “God has just shown me that no race is better than any other… It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God… the door is open.” (Acts 10.28, 34-35)

Andy said church looks like the Muppets – oddballs and misfits who wouldn’t normally be together, but we are because we belong. We belong because of Jesus.

Then he started setting up communion by talking about the kinds of people Jesus spent time with and ate with: rich, poor, educated, uneducated, sick, healthy, insiders, outsiders, faith-filled, doubters…

And he talked about the people who sat with Jesus at the Last Supper (the first communion): a tax collector, a doubting Thomas, a soon-to-be denier, and even a betrayer.

Andy called out a few youth leaders to join him up front and asked… Read More

You Have Nothing To Prove

- - Life With God, Uncategorized

Hi.

It’s me again.

I’m still reading CJ Casciotta’s little book Get Weird.

On Sunday, when I spoke in church, I shared this part from CJ’s book:

I remember sitting down one night with Kelly and admitting to her that most days I wake up feeling I have something to prove to the world, how this problem seems unshakable, a weight chained to my ankle that only gets heavier with each passing season. She looked at me with a calm, earnest glimmer in her eye, the kind that first drew me to her, the kind that will still shine just as strong once the rest of her has faded and folded, and asked, “What if you changed your perspective from having something to prove to having something to give?”

In that mundane, painfully ordinary moment, while I was sitting on the couch in our living room, truth came crashing into me through this strange and profound little thought.

Something to give.

It’s a phrase I write on my hand whenever I’m about to do something that makes me nervous. It’s something I let rise to the surface of my soul whenever I’m busy comparing myself to someone else.

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It’s such a simple truth—one we need to be reminded of often: You have nothing to prove… you have something to give.

Today, I read this:

There are those quiet, constant people whose arms our… Read More

Just Trying To Scratch Out A Broken Hallelujah

- - Life With God, Uncategorized

On Wednesday at YOUTH, Pastor Kyle spoke about being asked to do something crazy, something stretching, something you’ve never done before. He told stories about being invited to CrossFit, being asked to sing a solo with the youth choir at church, and being asked to lead worship for the first time.

His point was that even when we feel unable, unqualified, and unsure of ourselves, God wants us to be willing to offer what we have.

In groups, we shared our own stories of being stretched and challenged. And we talked about what we think God might be asking us to offer for God’s use.

I’m reading a book called Get Weird by C.J. Casciotta

Your weirdness is your worth. It’s the value you bring to the universe simply by breathing air with a set of lungs no one else has ever used before.

I love the story he tells about hearing some odd sounds on his way to the communion table at church…

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Yesterday I went up to take the Eucharist at church. There are a lot of religious traditions I don’t understand, but there’s… Read More

I Asked Them To Remember A Time When They Felt Deeply Heard

I was a youth pastor in the Northwest for 15 years. I’ve been a lead pastor for the past 10 years… so I still have more youth ministry experience than leading a whole church. Hey, I’m a rookie! Cut me some slack por favor.

I think I’m going back into youth ministry. At least for a season. We’ve had some staffing changes at our church and our youth ministry needs leadership right now.

So I got youth ministry on my mind.

At my age, I know better than to plan a trip to the hipster barber shop or go to the mall and drop some bills on the coolest shoes. Trying to impress young people is no longer my game plan.

Impressing young people with my coolness factor? Nah. Impressing young people with my oratory skillz? Lol, nope.

I’ve got a different plan these days. It’s maybe a little more mature (I hope?).

My plan is to… Read More

My Favorite Thing About Together Nights

God has entrusted the Church to keep the soul of childhood alive… Joy is the gift of the Church, whatever joy is possible for this sad world to share. —Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

Our church does a thing called Together Nights. This year, we had three Together Nights spread out over the months of March, May, and June. The idea behind them is to gather our people (from multiple Sunday service times) together and expose them to something valuable that they wouldn’t normally see or hear. Our guest speakers this year included Scott “The Painter” Erickson, spoken word and hip-hop artist Propaganda, and Pastor April Carter. SCOTT PROP APESAnyway, it’s always easy for us to celebrate celebrity. We all tend to do it and it seems to come naturally to us. But having these unique, gifted, exceptional guests wasn’t my favorite thing about Together Nights.

My favorite thing was celebrating … Read More

Life Stirs In The Garden

The following is an excerpt from Sanislaus Kennedy’s book Garden The Soul:

After the long dark days of waiting, a miracle has happened. Yet again, perseverance has been rewarded; what has been hidden is now visible; our earlier attention to the invisible is being paid back with colorful surprises, one day after the other.

It’s brighter and lighter in the garden these days, with brighter mornings, longer evenings, cherry blossoms, birds in the trees, life budding into being—and it’s lighter too in our hearts.

For the gardener, practical work begins… Read More

Everyone In My Church Is Dying

*photo: Laurice Brooks outside his home the day before his wife Betty died

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Everyone in my church is dying.

I don’t mean that as an exaggerated statement. I mean it literally. We all will die. We are all on our way. Unless Jesus returns within our lifetime, everyone is dying.

Now, admittedly, we’ve had our share of funerals and memorial services recently. And there have been a string of deaths that hit close to home—people whom I loved and they loved me back. The most recent was Betty Brooks. I’ve known Betty, her husband Laurice, and their son Danny since I was a child (Danny was one of my best friends in school).

When Betty was diagnosed with cancer, I went to visit her in the hospital. Her diagnosis was bad, as in… you don’t have much time left. She surprised me by how accepting she was of the news. She shrugged her shoulders, chuckled, and said, “I’ve lived. What are you gonna do? I’m ready.”

In the hospital, I held her hand and prayed with her. I told her that she’s beautiful and I said, “Betty, I want to be like you.” Betty laughed again and said, “Me? Why?” I said, “Because you are fearless.”

Just a few weeks later Betty was back in her own home receiving hospice care. The day before she died, I went to see her again. This time she was in and out of consciousness. She didn’t have the strength to speak. She looked at me and I’m pretty sure I saw her eyes smile. I sat next to her, holding her hand for a while. There wasn’t much to say. Eventually, we gathered around Betty and prayed. I said goodbye, knowing it was probably the last time.

Laurice walked us outside and we talked for a few more minutes. I took his picture, wanting to remember the sacredness of this day.

When Betty died, even though I knew this was coming… Read More

If I allow myself to be a companion of the poor, if they give me their permission to walk with them…

I’ve been reading a book called Spiritual Journeys – An Anthology of Writings by People Living and Working with Those on the Margins, compiled and edited by Stanislaus Kennedy. Some of the contributors to this book include Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen (my favorites).

The book includes a chapter by Edward J. Farrell – who had been a priest working in a poor parish in inner-city Detroit. I wanted to share some of what he said in this book…

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Immense gaps between people exist worldwide. Such disproportionate inequity touches every sphere of human existence: the economic, the educational, the psychological, and the cultural.

Life is not fair.

The experience of the poor has confronted me with my own poverty. I am poor because I never had the genius to make a significant difference for people in need. I am poor because I have done so little. I am poor because I live so comfortably. The Gospel is a constant reminder to me that I must… Read More