Tonight, Matt and I were walking through a dense, slow-moving crowd. Being that he is so much taller than I (and most people), I said to him “You lead the way, since you can see better than I can.”
No sooner had the words left my mouth, that I let go of his hand and snaked my way through the crowd to a clear area.
Once I got there, I turned around and laughed realizing that I genuinely meant he should lead the way when I said those words, but I quickly forgot and made my own way.
And that is all too often a perfect picture of my walk with God.
I’m having writer’s block something fierce lately, but I still want to keep updating. People often ask me how to clean things and keep them clean because I’ve cleaned houses in the past. So, in lieu of something deep today, here are my top 5 cleaning tips.
1. Do a little at a time. Read More
My Bible study is going through different epistles right now. Last night, our discussion was on Titus. As I read and reflected on Titus in preparation for group, I thought of how several of my seminary professors have pointed out that the Bible is much more a trajectory for life than it is a checklist of behaviors. The key is to pick up on where the trajectory is headed and see how it applies to a modern audience.
My personal “ah-ha” was that Paul’s qualifications for an elder were customized for the situation on Crete. That isn’t to say that there isn’t application for today, but I believe the main point of Paul’s message is that elders were to be spiritually mature and not fit in to the cultural norms of Crete: drunkenness, seeking dishonest gain, lying, laziness, etc.
I began to think of what Paul might write to people today, in our culture. I thought of our cultural norms: materialism, consumerism, entertainment, and success/status immediately popped into my mind. Knowing that’s who we are as a society, what would he stress? More importantly, is that what we stress in choosing church leaders?
I spent this last weekend on a reflection and prayer retreat. We spent the weekend going through the story of The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32). I’ve heard this story many times, yet I had new insights that surprised me.
The question I continue to reflect on was one posed by Henri Nouwen in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son,
“Do you still think we’re returning to a God who needs an explanation?”
Just after I began writing this, Matt was watching a rerun of CSI: Miami that was the first in a three-part, multi-city story arc. The story ended in Las Vegas on the original version of the show (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Season 10, episode 7, “The Lost Girl”). I get teary thinking of the final scene and how clearly it captures the Lost Son’s return home.
[Note: I so wish I could find this clip to post, retelling it just doesn’t do it justice].
Langston (Laurence Fishburne) had been going from city to city in search of a young girl named Madeline who was kidnapped and sold into a sex trafficking ring. He makes one final effort to reach her by using a fellow prostitute’s phone to text everyone in her network. The text said that Madeline’s mother wanted her to come home and “All she wants is her Maddie back.”
As Langston walked out of CSI that night, he spots a young woman outside, perceives she’s Madeline, and calls to her. She’s obviously been through hell and she asks him, “How do I go back after all of this?”
His reply chokes me up even now, “You just have to walk through the door.”
Such is the invitation the Father offered to both of his sons, no explanation needed: “You’re welcome in my house, you just have to walk through the door.”
[originally written 12/30/09]
Last week, I spent time on a prayer retreat in order to prepare for a sermon. The retreat model that I followed goes through four cycles:
- Silence, follwed by some time to journal.
- Personal confesion, followed by journal time
- Corporate Confession, followed by journal time
- Guidance & Requests, followed by journal time.
During the final three cycles, I decided to walk around near my home in the Santa Cruz mountains. While praying about corporate confession, I found myself confessing to God how sorry I was that His Church on a systemic level so easily loses sight of what really matters. We spend so much time on programs and stuff and neglect God. I confessed that we use people and wear them out, until they are tired and lifeless and tell them, “well done, good and faithful servant” as if that is the way God intended us to serve. Read More
Yes I’m grounded
Got my wings clipped
I’m surrounded by all this pavement
Guess I’ll circle while I wait for my fuse to dry
I recently met with a pastor friend who expressed his frustration about church growth. He told me about all of the postive changes that his church had made and how excited he was about ministry, when all of a sudden he blurted out, “It’s just really frustrating sometimes. When are we going to be back in a growth season?”
Without missing a beat, I told him, “You are in a growth season.” Read More
[I am indebted to my professor, Steve Korch, for shaping my thinking on this topic in The Theology and Practice of Worship.]
The second part of preaching and teaching that is essential is the fact that after we experience God on a personal level, we have to take others there. I’ve sat in many worship services where the closest we come to acknowledging God’s presence is a short prayer. In reality, those prayers are often just an easy way to get the band up on stage without the awkward transition.
We learn in Theology 101 that God is omnipresent. He’s everywhere, even in the walls of your church. We not only have the pleasure of painting a picture of God that people can long for, we can bring them into his throne room so that they may experience him, too. What if instead of offering steps to take later, we gave people the opportunity to interact with God, right in the middle of our service? What if we thoughtfully crafted the services to take people from the busyness of life to the heart of God? You might already do this (in that case, I want to visit your church), but I think a lot of us might not be as intentional as we’d hope. Just a few questions to prayerfully consider: Read More
I am quite possibly the world’s worst salesperson. There are only a handful of things that I would be any good at selling because I am genuinely excited about them. One of those things is Disneyland. I love Disneyland. No, you don’t understand, I LOVE Disneyland. My husband and I honeymooned in Disneyland and upgraded our tickets to annual passes. We took several additional trips to Disneyland the first year we were married.
When I get home, I’m already planning the next trip. In fact, I’ve looked in to working at Disneyland and/or moving closer, just to spend more time in the park. I’ve read books about Disneyland, talked to friends about their experiences and insights, and poured over websites to learn tips and tricks. When I talk about Disneyland, my excitement is infectious. I not only love to go, but I love to paint a picture that draws people in and makes them want to go, too.
In thinking about teaching the Gospel message, I am saddened to realize that we don’t always approach it with the same excitement. Read More
As someone who feels called to preach and teach, I continue to feel the weight of what that means. The pulpit is truly a scary place; the preacher is charged with speaking the Word of God to God’s people. That fact alone humbles me greatly. With this in mind, I began to ask God how to properly handle this calling as I move forward. The following points poured out of me.
- I am to be God’s mouthpiece in a dark world. The hope we have in Christ, no other entity will bring. No humanitarian organization, no other religion will bring this—the one life-changing, eternal message—to the hurting world. This must always be my primary message.
- I refuse to entertain for entertainment’s sake. It’s nice to be funny and talented, but those things will never replace Scripture. In fact, they can get in the way when seen as the end as opposed to a tool to that end. I am called to win people for Christ not my particular church or personal charisma. Besides, I’m never as cool as I think I am.
- My role as a teacher is to open up Scripture before the church and let its bouquet fill the room so that it might work as only it can: bringing people face to face with God, with themselves, and with the grace that fills the gap.
- I am to bring my best to God and his people. I will be prepared enough to allow for the Holy Spirit to truly work. I will refuse to “borrow” messages from other pastors; it’s plagiarism and does not allow God to bring his specific message to my local church.
- I will have the courage to preach the Biblical message in its entirety as God reveals it to me, even when the message may be unpopular or counter-cultural.
- I will bring myself to the pulpit every time. I will not try to hide who I really am, but instead allow God to shine through my cracks. Who I am is my ministry, not what I teach.
- If I ever lose the wonder of God’s grace and forget the power of the Gospel, I will recuse myself from teaching and preaching for a time in order to take care of my spiritual life. I cannot teach what I don’t know.
Earlier this week, I had an interesting conversation with someone that has continued to haunt me (in a good way). I was made aware of how Moses acted out the role of redeemer/deliverer before he was called to redeem Israel. First, he redeemed a Hebrew slave from an Egyptian man attacking him (Exodus 2:11-12). Then, in just a few verses, he redeemed women from shepherds at the well (Exodus 2:16-17). It’s as if redemption was a part of who he was made to be and he couldn’t help but act out that role before he even knew what God called him to do.
This has haunted me because I’ve been trying to figure out who God has made me to be. Hearing this story is helping me to think through who I have always been; the role that I have played. What has made the most sense to me is that God has made me to be a catalyst. I love coming alongside of people and helping them to grow into who they are made to be. This also helps me to understand why this season has been so hard for me on a personal level. A catalyst doesn’t do much on its own; it shines when it connects with other chemicals. To use another chemistry term, I’ve felt inert.
Like Moses saw, it isn’t always a good thing to act out your role in the wrong ways. Catalyst is a nice way to describe my role. You could also say I rock the boat. My brother has long since described me as a person who stirs things up (in not so pleasant terms). And people do not often like to have their boats rocked nor their *ahem* stuff stirred up.
My prayer has since been twofold. First, I pray that God would show me the right places to play this role. I know God made me this way for a reason, so I want to be faithful.
Second, I pray that God would give me the courage to be a catalyst when he calls me to be a catalyst. It’s scary to think that I might have something unpopular to say and the consequences of saying it. It helps I realized in talking with my coach today, that success is not about the outcome, but only in my obedience to God. I am accountable for everything on my end: my attitude, my words, my actions, but I can’t change people’s hearts. God doesn’t even ask me to do that; that’s his realm.
Now I’m intensely curious as to what roles people around me act out that they haven’t realized. I’m sure that’s the catalyst in me dying to get to work!