Just Trying To Scratch Out A Broken Hallelujah

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

God chose to call, empower, and use women in ministry leadership… I’m thankful He did and that He still does.

OK, let’s get right down to it—even in ancient cultures where women were viewed as little more than property, God chose to empower women for his work.

The following is a list of just a few of the women God chose, empowered, and used to be leaders, deacons, teachers, pastors, prophets, influencers…

Miriam

Debra

Huldah

Anna

Tabitha

Lydia

Eodia

Syntyche

Priscilla

Philip’s 4 daughters

Phoebe

Junia

Those are some pretty cool (strong, influential, leading) ladies. Serious. You should check out their stories in the Bible.

Here’s my point: God chose to use women in significant ministry leadership roles, so why would we try to exclude them?

I know, I know—Paul said some difficult things on the subject…

And I do realize some will interpret his instruction as a sweeping order for the ages. However, I think we really need to take into account the whole story, the big picture.

What is the story of Scripture?

Does God rule women out of ministry and leadership? Obviously not.

Particularly, in light of the Gospel, what difference does… Read More

What Henri Said

There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society.

Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician.

Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive.

It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without… Read More

Maybe We Need To Recover Our Imagination

*photo above: Scott Erickson painting during his one-man show “We Are Not Troubled Guests” at NWLife’s Together Night

 

Sometimes I wonder, have we lost our imagination?

Stewart Henderson, in his poem I Believe says,

‪Propagandists are

excellent mimics

But don’t expect them to say anything original.

I believe in doubt

I believe doubt is a process of saying

“Excuse me, I have a question.”

Propagandists hate questions

and in so doing

detest art.

I believe in art.

We are so easily tempted to mimic, copy, follow, and accept status quo as reasonable and good enough.

In the church it happens like this: we look to another church in some other part of the state or country that is considered successful because of one or more of the “B’s” – buildings, budgets, and butts-in-seats.

We esteem these other churches as having or being something that we also should have or be. We podcast them. We fly over to them and scribble notes about everything we see and hear. We meet with their leaders to get their secret recipes. And then we bring it home to our state, city, neighborhood.

This whole thing reeks of a lack of imagination to me.

What ever happened to… Read More