Monday, December 29, 2008

Brewing Change

I rarely go to Starbucks, but recently I did. I usually don't pay too much attention to what is on the cups, or the little sleeve that keeps your hand from getting hot, but this time it caught my eye. A simple design with the phrase "Do something good every day." The coffee company is a partner in the (red) campaign- a movement that a number of companies have joined in helping to raise money for aids research. 

As Christians, we are called to live a life that is different, so that we cause the world to become different. Christ's instructions for his disciples and the people he interacted with were in contrast to the ways of the world. One way that we can be successful in this call to a different life is by being intentional about serving others. The American dream seems to be all about making life better for "me" and "my own". But we are called to something better, something different- maybe if more people stopped looking out for #1, we would end up with more people looking out for us than just ourselves.

So this week, look after the needs of someone other than you. Go "do something good every day" because Christ did something incredible for them. 

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2: 3 (NIV) (bold added)

Monday, December 22, 2008


A few days ago I was filling up my car with gas. Now that it's winter, the roads seem especially dirty, so I used the complimentary window cleaner at the pump. I washed the front windsheild, and began to squeegee it off. I couldn't quite reach all the way across the windsheild, so I began to walk around the front of the was about then that I felt a strange sensation- my feet were getting wet. I tried the little tiptoe out of the water backwards...but that doesn't work when the water is ankle deep and you're already a good five feet into it...Naturally, I got a little irritated because I was driving home and still had a good hour to go. But the only person I could really get mad at was me and my lack of observation.

Sometimes we get so caught up with what we're doing that we forget to pay attention to what's going on...and it gets us in trouble. We may think we're getting a lot done and doing a lot of good, but being overly focused on a task results in being less aware of things outside of the object of your attention. As a person disciple of Christ, it is your responsibility to spread the good news. Interestingly, the most distracting thing for us can often be ministry- we get so focused on what we're doing that we neglect our relationship with God... and the ministry we do turns into busyness. Not only our ministry can get in the way, our daily lives can too. However, it's much easier to admit that we've lost focus due to work, school...etc. But being too busy doing ministry to have time for God is much more difficult to notice.

Be careful not to let the things you do (in life, and in your ministry) become more important than your relationship with the God who sustains you. Continue to seek God daily through prayer and study.

"He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe." Proverbs 28:26

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not-so-Christmas Classics Part 3

Click here to read Part 1. Then, read Part 2

"Christmas List" by Simple Plan- a punk-ish band that really took off in '02-'03. Most of their songs are dealing with relationship problems, but their lyrics can be funny (although, sometimes inappropriate). This one made me laugh the first time I heard it as it describes the true meaning of Christmas (at least to some)
Click here to listen/watch...or just watch the embedded version below.

First off, the song is just catchy. You can help but to tap your foot or bob your head (if you're might even be tempted to do both at the same time!) Now, as for the lyrics that get the point across:

"Christmas, so don't stop spending"
This really addresses the main problem that we should have with Christmas as it exists in our society- it has more to do with consumerism than it does Christianity. When I was young, I had no problem churning out a list of "needs" but I grew up in a world where it was Ninja Turtles, or GI Joes for boys, and Barbies or My Little Pony for girls... Every time I go to Wal-Mart, I am amazed at the toy aisles. I don't feel old, but I do when I think "I remember when there was a toy aisle, singular." It can't be easy being a parent of a young child today- it seems there are so many things that kids "need"...But even adults get sucked into this time where we try to express our love by how much we spend. I've already given a shout out, but I want you to be sure to check out Try to make this Christmas more about spending time with the ones you love.

"No matter what I get tonight, I want more"
The lyrics continue to poke fun at our insatiable need for things we don't need at Christmas. I've already addressed this, so I won't go on.

"Give me a time machine to take me straight to midnight, I'll be alright"
This is perhaps my biggest problem with the way we approach Christmas. As children, it's a waiting game and time seems to move extremely slow...think of the conversations on Christmas Eve- "Can we open one gift tonight?" This proves our lack of patience as children. As adults, we wait for that week off from work. We wait for the holiday traffic to be over. We wait for our Christmas bonus. We wait for the bargains on the 26th... But we forget to wait for God. We forget to give our attention to God instead of all of the things we do that keep us busy.

These songs help to keep me refreshed at the holiday season because they aren't worn out, and offer a reminder as to what this time is all about. Are there songs that you know of that aren't classics, but have a message that others need to hear at this time of year? Please share them by commenting.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not-so-Christmas Classics Part 2

This is the second part in a 3-part series on Christmas songs that are worthy of a listen, but you might not hear them on any radio stations during the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Click here to read Part 1

The second song is "The Rebel Jesus" by Jackson Browne. Click here to watch/listen, or just watch below

For most of us, this song may be quite convicting. The first thing that catches your eye is probably the title. It refers to Jesus as a rebel. Sometimes we think too much of Jesus as a guy that was always hanging out with sheep or children, and we forget all the trouble he stirred up. The truth is- Jesus probably wouldn't fit in at most churches today...but anyway... Here are a few thoughts.

The song starts off cheerfully as the lyrics paint a picture that we're all familiar with- the shopping scene and the scene at home on Christmas. But then it takes a turn...

"And they fill their churches with their pride and gold, as their faith in Him increases, but they've turned the nature that I worship in, from a temple - to a robbers' den" This is in reference to Matthew 21: 13 (Jesus is quoting Isaiah & Jeremiah as he drives the merchants from the temple) These were strong words from Jeremiah, Jesus, and now Jackson... as Christians, we have two options of how we react- 1) get defensive and decide he doesn't know what he's talking about (not unlike the Pharisees), or 2) use this as a reminder of what the temple or church is really for- a house of prayer and worship.

"We guard our world with locks and guns, and we guard our fine possessions, and once a year when Christmas comes, we give to our relations, and perhaps we give a little to the poor if the generosity should seize us, but if any one of us should interfere in the business of why there are poor...they'd get the same as the rebel Jesus" This is the sermon within the song- we spend so much time taking care of our own possessions, and taking care of our family, that we forget who we're supposed to be looking after- read Deuteronomy 15: 1-11. Browne's use of the word seize- which means it's forced out of guilt, is a great description of how our attitudes seem to be when people are in need. Here's a great video about how much Americans spend on Christmas versus how much it would take to supply the entire world with access to clean drinking water. Work for social justice. Be generous with the blessings God has given you and God will bless you for doing so.

"So I bid you pleasure, and I bid you cheer...from a heathen and a pagan, on the side of the rebel Jesus." This part raises the curiosity as to what Browne's religious views are. Was he just being humble- referring to himself as a pagan/heathen instead of just calling himself a sinner for dramatic effect? I found this on another blog (click to read about Jackson Browne's religious views).

Look for Part 3 of this series to post on Friday, December 19th.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not-so-Christmas Classics

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my line - only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. John 10:17-18a (NIV)

This week will feature a series of Christmas songs that aren't the classics we all know and love, but each of these songs is great for it's own reason. I'll post a link to a youtube video of the song and have a few comments as to why it's a great song, and worthy of a listen at this time of year.

Today is "Welcome to Our World" by Chris Rice. Watch, Listen, Read, and enjoy!

In addition to having a beautiful melody, it's an amazing lullaby...and yet the words are humbling as the writer declares that this little one is a much bigger deal than we could ever truly comprehend. A few thoughts on the lyrics of the song:

"hope that you don't mind our manger how I wish we would have known but long-awaited holy Stranger make yourself at home"
Sometimes we fail to prepare for Christ. And not just at Christmas. We fail to prepare for worship...probably weekly. Before a weekday starts, you probably gather your things and make sure you're ready...but how often do you connect with God before you go to worship? How often do you fail to prepare a place for God in your life...and give him whatever room is left- the manger?

"so wrap our injured flesh around You...rob our sin and make us holy"
The vivid description reminds us that we are in need of healing, and that Christ's sacrifice was both necessary and intentional. The word "rob" drives home the fact that the sin did not belong to Christ-He took it from us. How often do you ask Christ to rob your sin?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Get Uncomfortable

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message)

This is a longer scripture than usual, but it's a greaty passage. Like many passages, it seems to communicate a different message every time it's read/studied. I've recently been reading through "With God in the Crucible: Preaching Costly Discipleship" by Peter Storey. The book is a collection of Storey's sermons during the time when South African churches began speaking out against apartheid. Many of the sermons really bothered me- they described what was happening in the community, in the country, and in the church. Sometimes, Storey's calls to action bothered me- mostly that Storey called Christians to demand that the government dismantle the apartheid system...without reverting to violence. Storey's calls were not all that unlike the calls of Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S. during the Civil Rights movement.

The message of most of the sermons was simple and repetitive- apartheid is wrong, everyone knows it but won't change it, so the church must bring about change in a peaceful manner so that others don't try to change things violently. Storey even criticized the churches of America for being comfortable in their faith/religion. Our first reaction to this criticism is to become defensive- because we tithe, we volunteer, we even pray for our church! But the truth is that we have become comfortable. We have learned to like our little Sunday school discussions, we like a sermon that's uplifting and feel-good, we like our choirs to sound nice, we like our bathrooms clean...the list goes on.

There's nothing wrong with these things specifically. However, the problem develops when we get so comfortable with our own surroundings that we no longer realize how much God has blessed us by having a relationship with God through Christ. The 12th chapter of Paul's letter to the church in Rome urges the congregation to be different. He tells them to be radical- be different than the rest of the people...strive NOT to fit in!!! But we don't like that...because we know the saying- the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. Storey's sermons in the forementioned book stretch over a decade. We usually know when things need to change, but we don't always want to pay the cost it takes to change it. That has to change. We, the church, need to be the first to demand change when things need changing...we need to be different, for the sake of the world.

Are you comfortable in your faith? Do you find yourself concerned about little things in your church? Maybe the problem isn't the church- maybe it's your perspective... start looking for the things that are wrong in your community, in your city, in your country, in the world. Actively pursue change for the better. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world..."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Be Prepared

It's the holiday season. That can mean only one thing- company. But before that company comes, there's a lot to do. The house must be cleaned- the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms... food must be purchased, favorite holiday treats must be made, decorations must be pulled out of storage and displayed...what am I forgetting? You tell me.

Many of us take great care in our preparations for company- maybe we have that relative that comments if things aren't spotless, maybe that treat that everyone likes is really time consuming (but you make it anyway), or perhaps we're just over-occupied with making sure everything is "perfect."

With all of these preparations to make, I wonder if we take time to prepare for the coming king? I wonder if we take time to take the good news to others during the holiday season? I wonder if we take time to think about how we're celebrating something so incredibly amazing that it caused many to stop what they were doing and worship?

"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2: 20 (NIV) (bold added)

How are you preparing for Christ's arrival this Christmas season? Here's a tip- it's hard to prepare to welcome the Messiah when you're busy shopping or preparing for company. Don't let this Christmas come and go without taking time to realize the enormity of the season. Prepare your home and heart for the company of Christ.

Monday, November 24, 2008

When a Problem Comes Along...

How do you deal with problems in life? I can remember bringing home math homework from school, opening up the book, and seeing problems that I had no clue how to begin working. I remember my usual reaction: frustration that led to irritation, then the irritation would turn to anger at the teacher for "not teaching us this." I would often spend between 10-15 minutes being angry about the predicament I was in...then, I'd finally give up and go over the lesson in the book. After spending some time, I would have it figured out and be on my way to finishing my homework...but I was still a little 'wound up' from getting angry and frustrated.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4: 6

Problems in every day life are usually a little different. There's no lesson a few pages before that can help you solve the problem you're facing, and there are no answers to the odd questions in the back of the book! So, how do we deal with problems in real life?

Usually our problems in real life are people-related. Most of our lives involve some kind of interaction with people, and every person is unique-this is what causes problems-differences in opinion. Here's a quick list of Do's and Dont's for dealing with problems:

Don't react the way I used to with my math homework. Stay calm. Getting angry will not help solve the problem- it usually just makes it worse.
Do give yourself time to think and consult others.
Don't leave God out of the situation.
Do go straight to the source (in a calm manner of course). Talking to the person improves communication and results in a better understanding of how the problem came to be.

Problems are dangerous things because they can easily create anger and resentment. Anger and resentment can tear down the lines of communication and cause divisions.
So how do you deal with problems? Do you "freak out" or stir up trouble? Here's a link to my friend Russell Martin's blog where he posts a video about "When things go wrong."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Make Like a Tree...

Fall is a great time of year. The cool, crisp air is a welcome relief from the heat of summer. The leaves begin to change in color, forming beautiful landscapes for the eye to see...the color fades quickly, the leaves turn brown and fall. New leaves will not grow on the tree until the warmth of spring comes.

I believe there's more to enjoy from these events of fall. Sure, the colors are enjoyable, but we can learn something about our lives from trees. These trees are entering a time of dormancy. Because of the indirect rays of the sun during the winter months, keeping the leaves to produce food for the tree is more trouble than it's worth for the tree. (I know biologists are probably cringing at this explanation) It seems like we never drop our leaves these days... there's always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet.... we never stop to focus on ourselves. We never take the time to see how we're doing and if we have enough "in the tank" to get us through this season of life. We never take time to be rejuvenated by a time of rest and inward focus. We're victims of our culture- our culture sees a day off as a waste...a lunch break as a lack of productivity, and a relaxing as a lack of motivation. It's not easy to break the cycle. Most of us have been trained well. But, if we're able to "drop our leaves" for a while, we can connect with the God that brings rest and joy.

There are always going to be things to do. There will always be those things on our list that "have to" be done. When will taking care of yourself make it to your list? How are you taking time out to care for and examine yourself and your relationship with the God that sustains?

" 'Say this: :God, you're my refuge. I trust in you and I'm safe!' That's right - he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you - under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm." Psalm 91: 1b-4

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wishing things different

Have you ever been upset with God? Maybe even angry with God? Ever said something like "How could you let this happen...?" Maybe you were going through a stressful time, or something really horrible happened... in those times, it's comforting to know that it's ok to be upset. It's ok to get angry. You weren't the first...

"Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.' " Mark 14: 35-36

This event and phrase is repeated in Matthew 26: 42, Luke 22: 42, and is alluded to in John 18:11. Obviously, this is an important moment in the life of Christ for us to be aware of. If Jesus was the Son of God and still had a hard time accepting God's will...what makes us think things are going to be any easier for us? This isn't meant to bring hopelessness, but rather to inspire hope and faith that God will work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8: 28)

Knowing that Christ hoped for things to be different should free us from feeling guilty when our will does not line up with God's will. God desires a close relationship with you. Part of having a close relationship is communicating...God wants us to say how we feel and what we want... But, the most important part of the verse above comes at the end, "yet not what I will, but what you will." It's great to tell God what we want, but it's crucial that we ultimately be willing to submit to God's will... Why? God's will is perfect, our is not...this leads me to believe that God knows better than we do.

Is there something in your life that you're struggling with God about? Have you admitted to God that you're upset? Have you prepared yourself to submit to God's will?
Spend some time in dialouge with God this week

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hypothetically speaking

I recently saw a commercial that I thought was interesting. Unlike many commercials, it wasn't pushing a product...or saying why the competition is just not as was encouraging people to vote.

The commercial asks a bunch of "What if..." questions.The commercial challenges everyone to care enough to vote. Then, to care about things every day as much as some people have cared about certain things in the months directly before an election. The commercial called for a change in our person, so that we may cause a change in our that tends to be apathetic. Apathy can kill a person's spiritual life. If a person is apathetic, there is no motivation. If there is no motivation, there is no effort. If there is no effort, there is stagnation...and stagnation is one of the most difficult things to overcome in our spiritual lives.

Numerous times in the New Testament, having faith is likened to running a race. If you're not in the habit of running (or jogging) every day, it is difficult to make yourself run...that's the effect of stagnation. But, if you make yourself run for a few days, it will become easier to be self-motivated. Then, you may even become addicted to it...many distance runners and world-class sprinters experience something called "Runner's high."You can click the link to read more about runner's high, but basically, when you work out enough to begin breaking down muscle, the body releases endorphins (a self-made pain killer comparable to morphine) that allow the individual not to feel the pain, instead they feel a bit of euphoric as endorphins act like many man-made opiates. Once the person has a chance to rest, the body stops producing these endorphins, which is why most people don't experience soreness until a few hours after they work out or run. Now, back to spirituality and such...

When we stop actively seeking a relationship with God, it can become easier and easier just "not to do" this or that...and neglect our spiritual lives. But, all it takes is a bit of initiative to break the cycle. The commercial I mentioned above was trying to encourage people to break the cycle of not caring about voting. The commercial asks numerous hypothetical (What if...) questions. Many of these would work well for challenging Christians... I've got one more for you:

What if we stopped asking hypothetical questions, and just started doing what Christ taught us?

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air." 1 Corinthians 9: 24-26

Monday, October 27, 2008


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Romans 12: 2-3

Do you have a favorite TV show? Preferably a sit-com or some other scripted show. Got one? Here's the challenge: Go and find the pilot episode of that show. Try searching YouTube or for your favorite show's pilot episode. Watch that pilot episode.

Recently, while I was channel surfing, I found the pilot episode of Seinfeld. I settled in, prepared to laugh and enjoy the antics of one of the funniest shows (in my opinion) in television history. One problem- it wasn't the Seinfeld like I remember it. It was clear that the show was still searching for an identity, and many of the characters were searching too...maybe trying a little too hard too. It was still funny, but not as funny as I remember other episodes being.

Did you watch the pilot of your show yet? Did you notice anything different? The set probably looked different, the characters were probably underdeveloped, and maybe even the transitions from scene to scene were not like normal. All those things came with time.

Faith is the same way-it's a process. If we were to look back at ourselves when we first believed, we might not recognize ourselves...or our faith. We're constantly changing, rediscovering our identities in Christ. Growing in faith...with some set-backs here and there, but the hope is that our faith is growing in the long run.
The TV shows changed because someone worked on them- worked out the characters, plot, and set. Growing in faith is usually not easy-it requires newer, greater challenges. As Christians, we should strive each day to become more and more like Christ... So how does your faith look different from when you first started? How far have you come? What's the next step?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The best is yet to come

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) (bold added)

Ray Lewis has been one of the NFL's top defensive players for years. Many regard him as one of the greatest linebackers of all time. Ray had a rough start to his professional football trouble, being viewed as a selfish player... that's a lot more than most people could handle. Now, at age 33, Ray is approaching the end of his playing days, but he is still considered one of the best (if not the best) linebacker in the NFL.

During an interview near the start of the 2008 season, Ray talked about his career and his legacy. I couldn't find the quote, and it's been a while, but he said something to the effect of, "In my opinion, I haven't played my best football yet...When I play my best football, I'll be inspiring other players to be better at what they do." He talked about how he didn't think that he could give anything more physically, but if he was able to motivate other players on the team, that could be a more valuable contribution to the team than any personal feat.

Being truly great at anything requires having this kind of effect on people. Great musicians inspire others to learn an instrument, great athletes cause young children to dream of championships, great teachers inspire students to learn.... Being a follower of Christ is no different. To be a great disciple is to live a life that is an example that inspires others to want a personal faith, or maybe grow in their faith. A person can be very holy, but that person must remember that we are to "make disciples" with our faith.
How can you inspire others to follow Christ? How can you inspire your peers at church to grow closer to God? Who do you look to for inspiration in your faith-walk?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Investing Wisely

A week ago I was shopping at Sam's Club...there's so much in those places that would be cool to have, but you really don't need. While I was walking down an aisle, I noticed a recliner chair and looked for a moment at it. It didn't take long for my eyes to be drawn to the next shiny thing, but something caught my eye- so I looked again.
Squished between the seat cushion and the arm cushion was a $10 bill! I took the money out of the chair and looked around for someone looking at the ground...didn't see anyone, so I put it in my pocket and continued shopping. When I got to the front of the store, I asked for a manager. I told the manager where the money was when I found it and said that I doubt anyone would come looking for it. I had hardly finished my sentence when she told me, "No one usually does. People find money around here a lot and turn it in. It never gets claimed and we end up putting it into a charity fund for needy children."
I thought that was pretty cool. Then I thought about what I would have done with the money if I had kept it- blown it on iTunes, bought a new DVD, maybe get lunch at Chili's....but everything I thought of had one thing in common- ME! I was glad that I gave the money to the manager because hopefully it would go to someone that really needed it...and do more good than buy lunch, a movie, a CD...whatever.
As our nation braces for what seems to be an unavoidable financial crisis, what are you doing with your money? Are you saving it? Are you hoarding it? Who are you hoping your money will benefit? If you are the only person it is going to benefit, how much good is that money? I know that we all have bills to pay, some of us have families to feed, but the reality is that we could survive with A LOT less than we have/want. Are you investing in others?
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;" 1 Peter 5:2

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Disc Golf & God Part 2

"You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great." Psalm 18:35 (NIV)

A few weeks ago I played a round of disc golf with my good friend Russell Martin. After we finished the last hole, we decided to go to an open field and just throw some drives to each other. We're both average players, so we throw between 220ft-280ft on most throws...once in a while we'll throw a 300 footer or a 150 footer. So, we stood about 200-240ft away from each other and took turns throwing discs back and get more throwing by doing this because you chase your friend's throw 50ft rather than chasing your own 250ft!

I noticed something during that time- Russell was standing at a distance that was slightly less than the shortest holes on the course; so I relaxed and just tried to play problem, I kept overthrowing him! And I was throwing low and flat (this helps to get maximum distance by not wasting energy working against gravity or turning in the wrong direction). We talked about it a little while afterward and agreed that we felt like we threw better because we weren't trying to throw 300ft on every drive...we kept our mechanics in check and made smooth motions through each drive. We let the disc do the work instead of trying too hard.

In Part 1, I wrote about making an effort to connect to God in order to grow and see results. But sometimes we can try to force growth to happen, or think that what we do is the only thing that causes growth. We must understand that growth happens for us spiritually when we are working with God- just like great drives occur when I'm working with the disc, rather than trynig to muscle it as far as I can..the disc wants to glide, but when you throw too hard it becomes too much like a projectile and cannot glide.
How do you react when you're not seeing results in your spiritual growth? Do you try harder? Do you try to force progress? Maybe next time you should relax and let God take on a share of the work...remember, it's a relationship-there's more to the equation than just you!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Disc Golf & God Part 1

In the year 2000, my father opened a disc golf course in Rowlett, TX. I went with him to the grand opening ceremony...that was the first time I was ever exposed to the game of disc golf. Four years later, a friend that I was working with wanted to play a course, so I took him to the same course and played a round with him (and I played horribly enough for me not to try it again for a while). It wasn't until three years later that I was playing again with another friend. This time...I kinda got interested and bought three discs of my own...that was almost two years ago. In the past year and a half, I've adopted it as a hobby that helps me get outside, get excercise, and compete- three things I love to do.
For a while, I tried to play once a week...and sometimes I'd play twice a week. Last spring, I got really hooked on it and started watching videos online to help me get better, then I started buying more discs, then I bought a book and some magazines online. From one of these magazines, I found a website that had a blog that was devoted to helping disc golfers play better. The blog asked a well-known professional disc golfer to start a course to help people putt better. They had a formula, and a routine for practicing, and it was I decided to do it. The idea was to throw putts for 30 minutes a day, everyday.... no big secret to success, just practice, practice, practice.
For a few days, I was really good about getting out and doing my putting...I'd putt, then play a round of golf...but then, life got busy and I stopped doing my putting regularly. During the time I was doing my putting practice, my scores improved a lot, and when I stopped, my scores's a breakdown (for those who don't know golf scoring, PAR is good, under par ie: -3 is really good, and just above PAR is okay, but the goal is PAR or below)
In the month before I started the putting program, my scores averaged +6.6 over par. During the time I was putting regularly, my score improved to +3.6 over par...that's taking three fewer throws to finish 18 holes. And since I stopped doing my putting, my score has gone back to being +6.2 over par.
So what does this have to do with our relationship with God? Sometimes we think that making an effort to connect to God once a week is sufficient enough to grow in our relationship. But in reality, we need to continually seek more time with God. My scores improved because I put in an effort, and when I stopped, my scores showed my lack of effort. We often ask God to do things for us...but what God can't do for us is make us seek out time to get close to God. If you're feeling far from God and it's bothering you, perhaps it's time to start seeking God in your daily routine...see if you don't experience a difference!

Last note...quick math says that 30 minutes = a half-hour. There are 24 hours in a day, so 30 minutes equals 1/48 of a day. Many devotionals that are offered in stores or free online (like this one!) take 15 minutes or less...that equals 1/96...which is slightly more than 1% of a day. Do you think you could spare 1% of your time? Challenge: find a devotional, or talk to someone about a good book of the Bible to dive into for 1% of your day, everyday.

Check back on Thursday for Part 2 of Disc Golf & God

Monday, September 29, 2008

Do not seek the treasure.

Last week I vacationed with my family on the beaches of Padre Island, TX. Thanks to MTV, most people think of spring break and crowded beaches when they hear about Padre, but my family has gone to the same national seashore campground for over 20 years (usually every other year). This campground has no frills-there's only electricity and running water in the bathrooms. We stay in a pop-up camper just off the beach, with the ocean in view. We love it.
While at the beach, we enjoy walking up and down the shoreline, talking and looking for sea shells, sand dollars, and other stuff that's washed ashore. This trip was a little different because of hurricane Ike. There was minimal damage in the area we stayed, most of it had been easily fixed before we arrived (about a week after the storm hit), but there was an incredible amount of debris on the beach.

We usually expect to see jellyfish, seaweed, small shells...the usual. This time, there were countless trash cans, DVD cases (some still had the movies in them!), water and coke bottles/cans, furniture, toys....the list could go on forever. On other trips to the beach, when we've gone "beach combing" (looking for stuff) we get excited about a large or pretty shell, a sand dollar that's still at least 50% intact, or cool pieces of driftwood... But this time, our eyes were drawn to the junk...We spent hours in the first few days examining and sometimes picking up and keeping stuff that had washed wasn't until the third day that we really started looking for shells and other natural stuff.

Sometimes we do that in life too. We seek after "stuff." We run around trying to compile the most stuff and seem to never be satisfied. All the while, we're missing what God has in store for us. We fail to notice the beauty in this world, we can't see all the wonderful things God desires for us because we're looking at all the junk in life...things that we think will bring us happiness, and get more and more disappointed when the new and shiny objects fade.
What treasures are you seeking? How much of your time do you spend chasing after stuff- material possessions of this world? Would it be easier to understand what God's purpose is for us if we would shift our focus from the "treasures of this world" and looked for ways to invest in people rather than things? Start looking for ways to serve, instead of compiling. For it is service that we will be truly rewarded with treasures that are bigger than we could ever imagine.

"[Moses]...chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." Hebrews 11:25-26

Monday, September 22, 2008

How do you spend time?

Sunday night, after youth activities, I drove to Dallas to my college roommate's house. I stayed overnight and then he drove me to the airport early this morning. I'm currently on a flight to Corpus Christi, TX to visit and vacation with my family. This trip was originally scheduled for September 12-18, but there was a bit of a hurricane problem.

I haven't seen my family since May, partly because we're so far away from each other, and partly because my job keeps me busiest during the summer months. So, it's nice to be able to take a few days off and spend them with the people I love...catching up on the happenings of life. The beach is our favorite vacation spot. My parents have pictures of me at the same beach from my toddler years all the way up to 2005...soon we'll have pictures from this year. I love the beach, I love connecting with my family in a low-stress setting...taking each moment in and enjoying it for what it's worth. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this week of family vacation.

How do you spend the time you have with family? Too often, we spend our time like our money- we look for ways to part with it as soon as we have it...don't follow?
We seldom just enjoy a day. We worry about tomorrow, think about that assignment, meeting, whatever... It's hard for us to just live in the moment...we spend life with our finger on the Fast-forward button, and forget how press play, or even pause. We waste our time in the now, selling it for thoughts of later, tomorrow, next week.... I love going to the beach because it makes me want to slow things down, stay another day, forget about the things I'm worried about. It helps me
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46: 10

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Showing up

I am not sure who to credit this to, but someone a few years ago gave me a wonderful peice of advice about doing any kind of ministry.

"Never underestimate the power of showing up."

It seems simple, too simple to have any real effect. But showing up is the most important thing in any kind of ministry. Time is probably the most valuable thing we have in our culture that celebrates multi-tasking and overloading schedules. It's hard to "find the time" to do things we know we should, so when we physically show up, it means more than we could ever know.

When the advice was given to me, I was interning with Project Transformation. I believe it was during the first week of the 9-week program. I was expressing my anxiety about working with elementary-aged kids. I had never worked with kids that were younger than 6th grade, and that summer, the oldest kids were 5th graders. To top it off, a few of them hardly spoke any English! As I voiced my concerns, someone spoke up and gave me that advice, adding, "You don't have to be amazing, you just have to be there." I took the advice, and did some wonderful work with kids that needed to be loved...all by just showing up, every day.

As Christians, we often find ourselves thinking, "I can't do that. I'm not going to be any good." We fill our heads full of negative thinking, and hope that someone else will step in. Chances are, if you're trying to give reasons why you can't do's exactly what you have to do. You don't have to be amazing, just show up. Go. Serve. Love.

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ," Ephesians 3: 7-8 (NIV) (bold added)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thoughts on a quarter century

This post, I'll break from my usual format of doing something devotion-based. Instead, I'm going to post a 10 things that I've learned about myself and about life (in no particular order) that I think are worth sharing. There are a lot of things that I could put on this list, but I've only given it a few days of thought. Anyway, here it goes:

1. I'll never know enough to be completely satisfied with my knowledge about anything.

2. I'd save myself a lot of trouble if I could put down my pride long enough to ask for help.

3. Friends and family can get you through a lot. Strive to return the favor whenever possible.

4. It's better to give people a chance to get to know me before I start "acting myself".

5. I really enjoy being able to not act my age on a regular basis.

6. Even though I consider myself a very patient person, I need a lot more patience on a regular basis.

7. Making plans rarely works for me because things seldom happen the way I think they will.

8. Many of the things I've resisted the most, turned out to be the most beneficial to me.

9. Worrying does more harm than good.

10. Life is funny, you just have to learn to look at it the right way.

Disclaimer: Please don't expect me to follow my own advice...because I'll always make mistakes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Calm after the storm

Last week, our church hosted more than 150 evacuees from Port Arthur, TX. It was an interesting experience, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to help those in need. We didn't experience too much in the way of weather...unusually high winds and lots of steady rain for about two days, but it was enough to flood low points in town and break some tree limbs. The weather was pretty miserable, and if you know how I feel about rain, you can imagine how much I didn't enjoy Tuesday-Thursday of last week (as far as weather goes).

But I did notice that Friday and Saturday were absolutely gorgeous days- with sunshine and highs in the 60s & felt like late October. It was great. The grass and trees were so green and the air was so crisp and clean from all of the rain....I could go on, but you get the point: the weather was as close to ideal as I've ever seen during early September in Texas.

Sometimes life is hard- we're going through difficult situations and we think that our troubles will never fact, they can even get worse! But we should always pay just as much attention to the time after the storm as we do to the storm itself. Difficult times in our lives result in growth spiritually and as a person. We come out of difficult situations with a new perspective, and sometimes a renewed zest for life...much like the way the storm left our town- cool, clean air and greener grass/trees. Whenever you're facing trials in life, know that it will pass, and that there is an opportunity for things to be better after it's over.

"Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:28-30 (NIV)

Monday, September 1, 2008


...The professor looked around the room, waiting for volunteers, while I tried not to make eye contact. It took a little while to get the five volunteers, but eventually the need was filled. I kept thinking, "I don't have time....someone else can do it."

To this day, this is my biggest regret from my college years: not volunteering to help with the evacuees from Katrina and Rita in 2005. I know I had a test and lots of books to read, but I can't remember what the books were, or what grade I got on the test/quizzes. I could have spared some time and helped others in need, but the truth of it is, I didn't want to. I was selfish. I normally would have done anything for that professor, he was one of my favorites. But I just "couldn't" volunteer to help him at the shelter.

It still bothers me that I didn't help. Partly because I don't remember what class the 'important' test was in...or even what it was covering, but mostly because I put things before people. Huge mistake. Any time we, as humans (not even mentioning the Christian part) begin putting things before people, we begin to lose some of our humanity...the part of us that is good...from God.

I've been offered a chance for redemption. While I wish that people weren't having to stay at our church, I see it as an opportunity to make up for what I didn't do three years ago. I have a lot of important things to do this week, but they can wait until the people have been taken care of. If you're in Texarkana, please volunteer at a shelter. And if you're in a town that has evacuees, find out how to get involved with helping people that have been displaced.

"As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.' "

Matthew 14: 15-16 (NIV) (bold added)

Monday, August 25, 2008


Fast food is bad for you. That probably didn't surprise anyone, but I'd like to take a different perspective on why: usually it's the grease/fat content...or whatever other problems health experts and doctors have with your average value meal. I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about why WE (the consumer) magnify the effects of fast food. We do it with our lifestyle. We "need" fast food because we try to do too much on a regular basis. We grab fast food in the drive thru lane on the way to work or school, scarf down a few thousand calories, then we don't allow our bodies the time to properly digest it. We do this on road trips, before a long day of sitting at a desk...not always, but I'm fairly certain we've all done that quite a few times.
The body needs time to break down a meal. It helps to have a few moments to let food settle, then a small amount of light exercise could help a meal (even a heavy fast food meal) to sit better. Large amounts of grease and no exercise afterward are a great way to the unhealthy diet that many of us are dependent on these days.

So, what's this have to do with reflection (the title)? Our eating habits are a reflection of our lifestyle- we try to do this, or go to that, and never really stop to think about what we're doing. We never allow ourselves time to digest what we're doing, and what we're getting out of it. When was the last time you examined your day as you prepared for a restful evening? I'm willing to bet that for most of us, it's been a while. Usually, we're less concerned about yesterday and today, and more worried about tomorrow. We never reflect on our days, re-examine what you learned/accomplished/enjoyed...just like our meals-we're so concerned about the next thing that we don't get everything out of what we're doing or have done. Make it a point to reflect on a daily or weekly basis. Here are some questions to ask as you re-live your day.
1- What was my favorite part of the day?
2- What did I learn today about people, my job/school?
3-What was the most challenging part of my day?
4-What is the one thing about today that I never want to forget, or will always remember?
Learn a lesson from Mary during what must have been a particularly hectic/stressful time in her life:
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
The angle I take has nothing to do with the scripture itself and is out of context, but look at what Mary does- takes time to reflect/digest everything that's happened.
PS-If you're not familiar and too lazy to look it up, Mary's just been told that she'll mother the son of God by an angel...kind of a lot to handle!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Work vs. Play

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, at time to mourn and a time to dance," Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

This bit of wisdom from the author (Solomon) is among a book that shares the valuable lesson that many of us fail to learn for most of our lives: if you're looking to be satisfied by material things in this're setting yourself up for disappointment- "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?" (Eccl. 1:2-3) This is the main message that Solomon is trying to convey in Ecclesiastes, but that's not what I want to focus on.

I'd rather talk about changing seasons. This is the time of the calendar year when many of our lives change. School is about to begin- summer's over, some are starting in new schools, some are starting new lives away from home, some are starting new jobs...this list goes on.

This is true for our youth group. During the year, we have a fairly regular schedule, but this changes during the summer- with mission trips, mystery trips, church camp, and VBS, it's difficult to fit much else in... We've had a lot of fun, made new friends, strengthened existing relationships, and grown closer to each other through fun activities. But all that is about to change. We're about to get back into our regular schedule.

While some may resist change (especially when it's change from fun and travel) we often forget that it's during the times when we are challenged that we grow the most. This year we'll discuss things that might challenge our faith, we'll experience situations that are more difficult than anything we've ever known, and through it all, we will grow closer to God. Solomon knew that everything in life had it's place, and that there are definite seasons in life. Change is much easier to deal with when we stop resisting it and accept it as an inevitability that might actually benefit us in our relationship with God and our relationships with others.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

They Must Be Giants

Saturday I was reunited with a few people from my past. The youth group from the church I grew up in, was baptized in, and was a member of through high school and college. They were finishing up a mystery trip and needed a place to stay.

As the group walked in and looked around our facility, I immediately noticed a familiar face. Mrs. Lee was the youth volunteer that always seemed to be around. She did Bible studies, trips, messy game nights...everything. Basically, outside of our parents, and the youth director, Mrs. Lee had the most impact on many of the spiritual lives of the people that I went through my years as a youth. The youth director (not the same youth director I had, but still an acquaintance that I'd worked with in the past) did not tell the group that I was going to be there, so it took Mrs. Lee a few seconds to recognize me. We talked for a while and she tried to catch up on the happenings in my life over the past five years.

Mrs. Lee is one of the people that I see as being a spiritual giant in my life. She was a spiritual giant because she was such an influence on my faith formation.

Do you have any spiritual giants in your life? If so, how often do you seek to be around them? My bet is that no matter the number, it would always be helpful if that number was higher. If you don't have a spiritual giant, talk to a pastor about getting a mentor. Learn all you can from those "giants" and be sure to express gratitude for them lending you a hand.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A little R & R

"The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good man rewarded for his... A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless." Proverbs 14: 14 & 16

I'm no economic expert, but one basic idea that I'm familiar with is the idea of Risk and Reward. When making an investment, you have to consider the risks and the rewards to determine if the investment is worth making. Generally, an investment that is high risk can have huge rewards (or opportunity for making lots of money), and low risk investments usually don't pay off as well. A savings account is a good example of a low risk-low reward investment. Since there's very little chance that you'll lose your money, the pay off (or "interest") on savings accounts is usually tiny- a fraction of a percentage. Whereas, a savvy investor might be able to make lots of money by knowing a lot about stocks and economic trends, so that he/she can "play the market" and make lots of money by making wise investments.

At school and in life, the way we conduct ourselves works in much the same way. Making fun of others and being cruel are easy ways to earn the approval of many of our peers at school. You might have faced opportunities to do something "cool" in order to earn the respect of your peers. Many times, this can involve making decisions that you wouldn't be proud of in the company of your parents, or church friends. Giving in to this type of peer pressure is not very risky, but the reward is minimal- being "cool" and earning a little respect for a short time. However, doing something that is right, might not be seen as "cool" and is therefore risky to your reputation. But just like in the economic system, your risk could earn you a new friend, and possibly change that person's life.

Are you willing to do the unpopular thing by standing up for what is right?
Do you think that your friends will stop liking you if you become a Christian example?
If so, are those friends really your friends?

Monday, July 28, 2008

...and tell.

This continues a discussion from youth last night about the song "Instead of a Show" by Jon Foreman. Click on his name to link to his myspace, scroll down a bit and find click on "Instead of a Show" to hear the song.

In this song, Jon uses a passage from Amos 5 to make a firm stance on how we should live as Christians. Amos spoke God's voice in saying that God hates and despises our religious gatherings. Instead, Foreman echoes the words of the Old Testament prophet, God desires us to live righteously by loving and helping others.

This song is one that should cause you to examine yourself: how you live, how you worship, and if those match up. Amos relayed God's message of dissatisfaction thousands of years ago, and we still have problems of people living church lives, instead of living a Christ-centered lives.

Last night, we were only able to look examine the passage in Amos, but there are passages in the New Testament that deal with the same problems... After all, serving others and doing good is what we are called to do. So, I promised that I would share a few more passages with everyone, here they are (click the link):

Matthew 6: 1-8 Titus 3: 3-8
After reading these, do you think there might be some more similarities between the messages of the Old Testament and New Testament?

What can you do in your life to live righteously, do good, avoid fighting?... And do it all in humility; not needing the approval of men and women, but constantly seeking God's approval.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Demands for God

The other day I went to a cookout. At the cookout were two small dogs. Both dogs were very interested in the food, and knew exactly who would give them food- their owner. This comes from receiving food after begging at other times before....anyway. The thing that amazed me was the persistence the dogs showed.

The made their presence known to their master, and made it clear what they wanted. Finally, they made it clear that they weren't going to leave until they got what they wanted. Eventually, they did receive a little bit of people food...a reward for their persistence and presence.

So, when you pray and ask for you just ask for it, or do you demand it from God. Don't feel that you're being selfish or greedy, unless of course you're motives are merely for your gain. Demanding God's blessings is perfectly fine, this is an expression of faith that God will give you what you need. Notice I said NEED, not just want. So, next time you pray for God's help, try trusting that it's going to happen and expect God to come through for you.

"He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever." Psalm 111: 5

Monday, June 30, 2008

Part 5- Study

This continues a series based on Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

In this chapter, Foster explains that there are three things that we, as Christians, should study in order to grow closer to God
1- The Bible. However, Foster explains that studying the Bible is more complex than just reading it. We must explore it. Read it over and over. Foster suggests using lectio divina to study passages.
2- Other writings on Christianity. He suggests a number of books, but perhaps the easiest to digest would be C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Other books that are named offer great insight into the thoughts and discoveries of many spiritual giants. Feel free to explore this chapter to find out what else Foster recommends.
3- Ourselves. In order to better understand your faith, it's important to understand yourself. Try to figure out what helps you get closer to God. Find out what hinders your walk, and make efforts to adjust your life so that you have more of the former and less of the latter.

In the final paragraph, Foster addresses the fact that study is something that is difficult to begin and keep doing, but once you've started making it a habit, it is easily maintained as we begin to thirst for more knowledge.

Read the other entries from the Disciplines series
1- Introduction

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Summer is a little crazy, so I'm just now getting around to updating. I'm currently on a mission trip, and have very little time to use the computer and internet, so I'll give you an assignment:

1. Go to a place where you can find some silence and solitude, take a Bible, but leave your watch, cell phone, iPod, or any other device that could be used as a distraction.
2. Find a place to sit down and just watch the day, (I prefer mornings or evenings, especially at this time of year). Don't do anything, just observe your surroundings: creation. Listen to the sounds of nature, hear the songs the birds are singing...
3. Sit for a while, no specified time, until you are content. Then pick up your Bible and turn to Matthew 5. Begin reading out loud to yourself. Don't stop until you finish chapter 7.
4. After you're done, sit and let the message sink in. Imagine what it would have been like to hear Jesus preach that message.
5. Sit and enjoy creation some more. Then try not to listen to music or any manufactured noise on the way back home, or wherever you're going.

Monday, June 16, 2008


This continues a series based on chapters from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

Fasting may be the most mis-understood of the disciplines we've covered so far. In fact, not eating by choice may seem unhealthy to us. In fact, Foster alludes to this when he states, "Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money." However rare, fasting can be one of the most rewarding of the disciplines, because fasting gives us increased opportunities to focus on other disciplines.

In order to be a discipline, fasting must be done with God in mind- anything else and it is merely selfish in motive. Fasting in the Christian faith, is not a diet, or a way to get what you want (from others, or from God), but it is a way to enter into intimacy with God through escaping indulgence and other "needs."

Before considering fasting, be sure you're healthy enough. Someone that has been sick, or has another medical condition should seek the advice of a physician before deciding what is best. When you begin fasting, start out with a small, partial fast (allow yourself to have juices), and work your way up to only drinking water, and maybe longer periods of fasting. View it like running long distances- you can't start out running a 10K, so start out with a small amount and work up.

The physical effects of fasting will be easy to detect, but the spiritual gains will come when you begin to look beyond yourself and your hunger, and seek God through prayers, praise, and study. Always start and end a fast with a small meal (Foster advises that it be based on fruits and vegetables).

read the other entries in this series
1- Introduction
2- Meditation
3- Prayer

Monday, June 9, 2008

Praying successfully

This is part 3 of a series based on the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

In my opinion, prayer seems to be the most common (and yet still misunderstood) of the spiritual disciplines. Many of us learn to pray at a young age when we go to bed and before meals. The prayers I learned early were memorized, and I can still recite one! As we get older, we begin having conversations with God. Some of these early "conversation" prayers may be the best we'll pray for years. Why? Because children often trust that what they ask will be granted, more so than adults. Foster offers a great example of a child asking their parent for a sandwich. The child trusts that there will be a sandwich any time they want one, and doesn't worry about packing food away for a day when the sandwich won't come. Foster explains that many children present their requests to God with the same faith that God will take care of it if they ask.

As adults, we often struggle with this kind of request/expectational prayer- fearing that we, as imperfect beings, don't have the right to expect something of God. Well, to put summarize Foster's point, what's the point in praying if you don't want something bad enough to believe that it will be granted? At the beginning of the chapter on prayer, Foster gives a great quote about prayer: "In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God's throughs after him, to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills." (Foster, p.33) In essence, Foster argues that as we begin to pray correctly, it is not God's will conforming to our requests, but rather our being more in tune with the will of God causes our requests to fit into God's will and plan.

Still, Foster argues, there is a time for a prayer recognizing that sometimes we do not fully understand the workings of God. Christ understood this when he prayed in the Garden (Matthew 26:39). In order to avoid constantly praying about things that your will doesn't agree with God's, Foster suggests that intercessory prayer should only be used when you feel deeply moved by the topic- he argues that the reason you may be moved is that you are being called to pursue God's help in the situation.

I cannot begin to summarize the chapter, instead, I would suggest reading the book for yourself. But I'll conclude with a quote Foster gives: " Listening to the Lord is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing neceessary for successful intercession." (Foster, p. 39)

Read part 1- Introduction Read part 2- Meditation

Friday, June 6, 2008

Thoughts on Meditation

This post continues the series on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline.
Part 1 of this series "Disciplines Intro" was posted on Monday, June 2nd.

Our desire to meditate comes from a desire to have a relationship with God. This explains the fact that we are often so dissatisfied with all that we've accomplished in this world- if we don't have a relationship with God, part of us knows something is missing. However, like many things we desire, we want to acquire it in the easiest possible way. See Israel not wanting God to speak to them, instead they send Moses up the mountain, and then ask Moses to shield his face. Then Israel wants a king, a leader to tell them God's plan and carry it out for them. We're not much different today. Today, we look to our pastors and leaders to do all the meditating for us. We often neglect reading scriptures, praying, reflecting on God...and settle for our weekly dose on Sundays. Why? Because it is the easiest way. It doesn't require us to change. But if we actively seek God and meditate on God's will, we would have to change.

Here are some thoughts on meditation, many of these are Foster's thoughts that I've summarized:
1- Meditation is not meant to be some mystical experience in search of finding a euphoric state. Instead, Christian meditation is meant to be a time to consciously try to connect with God by
pausing from our every day life.
2- Meditation is not difficult, and not reserved for "experts". Any that desire to meditate can do so.
3- Meditation should be a part of every day. Making it a point to have some time with God each day can lead to better meditation.
4- It cannot be limited or scheduled for a specific time. Realize that you may need to meditat for more than two minutes a day...
On this, Foster writes, "If we are constantly being swept off our feet with frantic activity, we will be unable to be attentive at the moment of inward silence." (Foster page 27)
By this, Foster means- If you've determined that you have five minutes for your time with God before your next activity, you're probably not going to be able to focus on God...your mind will already be on the next thing to do.
Only you can determine the best way for you to meditate, but Foster offers a few tips:
1-find a designated place- away from phones, tvs, gadgets...preferably at a place with nice scenery.
2-position yourself in a way that is conducive to meditating...a posture of receptiveness that isnt' uncomfortable.
3-take time to unwind... this may be the most difficult thing for us to do. Our lives are often so busy, that we forget how to be still. Our lives and minds are like an automobile, to stop down we have to take our foot off the accelerator, and then permit the car to slow to a halt, or take a more active role and press the brake.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10 (NIV) (bold added)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Disciplines Intro.

I recently started to re-read of one of my favorite books that was assigned reading during a Spiritual Formation class I took a few years ago. Richard J. Foster's Celebration of Discipline describes different Disciplines (or practices) that we use to connect with God in order to satisfy the need we have for intimacy with God. I'll post as often as I can (depends on how much I read) and give some of Foster's thoughts, as well as some of my thoughts.
To begin, I'll offer a few quotes from the Introduction of the book...along with a bit of my own commentary:

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people." -Richard J. Foster Celebration of Discipline Introduction (page 1)
These words, although written 30 years ago, are still true. In fact, I would argue that we're even more addicted to instant gratification because of advances in technology- with the internet at many of our fingers, we can satisfy almost any desire we have....but the internet can never give us intimacy with God. The kind of intimacy we truly desire comes from consciously seeking God and searching to know God better each day...This is the type of person one should strive to be after making the decision to follow Jesus. Jump in, explore, dare to be deep with God.

"In our enthusiasm to practice the Disciplines, we may fail to practice discipline. The life that is pleasing to God is not a series of religious duties. We have only one thing to do, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God..." -Richard J. Foster Celebration of Discipline Introduction (page 4)
This is something I want (and want you) to keep in mind during this entire series. When we become more disciplined in our faith, we risk the trap of being impressed with ourselves, thinking, "God must be very proud of me." The truth is, there's not much we can do to impress God. If it's approval we seek, all we need to do is to "experience... [that] relationship" with God. But it's not possible to passively experience God, it will be passionate, and it should be desired as your discipline turns from feeling like a chore to feeling like a necessity.

Check back regularly, or better yet, subscribe to the blog and take the guesswork out of it! (shameless plug)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tips for Summer Camps & Travels

With summer fast approaching, many of us are digging in our closets trying to find our (huge) bags and air mattresses as we prepare for a week (or a few weeks) at camp. My friend Russell Martin recently started a series of posts for "Summer Camp Survival Tips" In this series, Russell (a seasoned veteran with countless church camps and mission trips under his belt, offers helpful tips to save you time, money, and the panic attacks that come with thinking "Did I pack ______?" Whether you're a counselor, camper, director, or worship leader, you'll find these tips helpful for surviving summer camp.
Russell is a worship leader and posts regularly on the topic of leading others in worship, his blog (fork in the road) features tips that anyone learning to lead worship (or even someone that's been around a while) can find helpful.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I recently caught the last half of a show on the History Channel about 1980s technology and how it's impacted our world today. The program, a part of the series "Modern Marvels," featured many of our favorite inventions that we now call 'retro.' Click on the above title to view their web-page that highlights the particular program I'm talking about. Amongst the inventions were the "brick" phone (see Zach Morris on Saved by the Bell), Pac-Man, and the calculator watch. But the invention they said had the greatest influence on our culture today was Sony's Walkman
The Walkman, they said revolutionized the way we listen to music- from communally to personally. It wasn't long until everyone (it seemed) had or needed a walkman. The Walkman paved the way for the personal CD player, the mp3 players of the late 90s and early 00s....and finally, helped Apple's regain it's place in the technological market through the iPod. The iPod became immensely popular and solidified the fact that we no longer had to listen to things we didn't want to hear...and no longer had to physically carry tapes or CDs with us to be able to listen to them when we wanted to. You get the idea.
I feel like this is somewhat of a barometer of our society- there's been a shift in thinking: we no longer think in terms of we, but are more likely to think in terms of "me" and "I." (Something we really didn't need help doing). It seems that in the past few years we've started asking "What's in it for me?" and "Why do I have to do that?" a lot more. I feel that we're much less likely to do something for the "good of the whole" if it doesn't benefit us as individuals as well. 
I could be wrong, but I feel that religion has become the same way. We look at God and churches and wonder what they've got for us (as individuals)? In the recent past, "I don't go to church because I don't get anything out of it," has become a common excuse for not attending church. I believe you should get something out of it, and that church shouldn't be boring , but I still have to ask: "Does it always have to be about you?" or "Isn't church about praising God and recognizing what God's done for you?" 
This week I urge you to seek God in everything: school, work, conversations, and yes, even at church... see if shifting your focus from "I" and "Me" to "God" doesn't change your perspective. After all, perspective is all in how you look at it...

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

Monday, May 19, 2008

Static on the line

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." Romans 12:6-8

Paul writes this letter shortly after telling the members of the church in Rome to "...offer [their] bodies as living sacrifices, holy an pleasing to God." This is one of the most vivid descriptions of how we are to live our lives as Christians. A sacrifice is something we offer to God in thanks for the blessings we've been given. If we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, it means we are working for the Lord. This doesn't mean that all should work in the church, or with church organizations, but it does mean that as Christians we're trying to take the gospel with us everywhere...yes, everywhere. Paul, tells us that we all have different gifts, and that those gifts were intentionally given to us- for the purpose of spreading the word about God's love. This is not a new concept for many people... but what about when the world tries to confuse your calling?

How do we react when something in this life causes us to wonder if our gifts are good enough? How do we react when we feel inadequate? Each of us has been called for a specific purpose in life, whether we've discerned it or not. But, how do we feel when we question our calling? What do we do when we feel we've lost the battle?

There are things in this world that will try to bring you down. That's just the way it is. Sometimes it will be an event. Maybe someone or something...maybe a stranger, or a friend. But know that it will come. And when it does, no amount of preparation can make it easy to deal with. It doesn't take much to make us doubt our calling and our faith (see Peter's attempt to walk on water ), but the good news is knowing that none of that comes from God. God would never cause us to doubt our calling- that's something the world does. And the self-doubt is a product of our own insecurities. And we don't have to win anything- we're nothing without God, recognizing your dependence on God can free you from feeling that you always have to be good enough.

So, when the time comes (or maybe the next time comes) when you feel discouraged from your call, or this world tells you you're not enough: Listen for God, and trust in the call that is yours.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's not easy being green....Part 5 (finally)

Ok, so life got a little crazy and I failed to make good on my promise for two more tips on how to be more green. As a reward, I'll offer a bonus...or as marketers would say "10% more FREE"...

tip #9 Get a home water-filtering system or drink tap water.
I know, I know... it tastes funny. But if you think about how many trips to the grocery store you would save by not buying water from the store, or filling up huge jugs of water. Again you would win twice- you're making fewer trips to the store as a result of being out of water, and you're lessening the amount of CO2 that you're putting into the air....not to mention that by purchasing a Brita or PUR system, you might actually save money in the long run- most filters cost between 15-20 bucks and can last between 2-4 months. And if you can make the transition back to tap water (most areas are safe...remember, bottled water has been a phenomenon in the past ten or so years, and we didn't die out before then.)

tip #10 Turn your water heater down and wash your clothes on cold or warm...not hot.
Lowering the temperature can save you money on your bills, as the heater uses less energy to maintain the temperature of your water. As for the laundry, washing clothes in cold or warm water limits the amount of hot water you're using, and again saves you money by not having to heat as much water up to replace the water used during the cycle. (Also, this can be helpful to families with young children- by keeping the water temperature lower, you reduce the chances that your child may scald themselves accidentally).

Bonus tip #11 Encourage others to be green- share these and other easy strategies with them.
Most people want to be more green, but don't know how, or think it's too them it's not. I know this isn't really a tip, but if you think about it, you can save a lot more energy if you convince others to do so than you ever could alone.

PS- I decided to practice what I preach and went out to buy the weird looking light bulbs. I'm curious to see if I notice a difference on my electricity bills. I'll update you in about a month.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's not easy being green...Part 4

Here are two more tips to help you "tend" the land that has been provided for may also save you some money too!

Tip #7- don't wash your dishes. Seriously. Let your dishwasher do the work. Dishwashers use less water than the average hand washer...we tend to use a lot of water in the rinsing process....and some let the water run during the washing process too! However, big stuff likes pots and pans can fill up your dishwasher quickly and cause you to run it more frequently, so hand wash those (being conscious of your water usage) but leave the small stuff to the machine.

Tip #8- Use a laptop computer if you don't require the memory or computing power of a desktop to run programs you use. Laptops use less energy and often produce less heat...meaning it's less of a strain on your A/C unit too! Also, setting your computer to "hibernate" or "sleep" overnight can help to conserve energy, and the computer should 'reboot' quickly...and you can leave applications open and it will bring them back just as you left them.

Last two posts tomorrow. Now I've got to see why one of the fire alarms started chirping outside my room...I usually cause these things to get worse.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's not easy being green...Part 3

This week I'm offering tips on how to help conserve energy and save you money. Being a Christian and being concerned with the environment go hand in hand. (see first post on Monday for scripture)

Here are two more tips to save you money and help the environment by consuming less.

Tip #5- Turn off the TV when you're not watching it. Many of us are addicted to background noise, and afraid of silence. So, instead of leaving the TV blaring while you're in the other room, turn on the stereo, or listen to the radio. These devices use less energy than the TV, and you're less likely to be distracted by the "shiny screen" when you should be doing something else.

Tip #6- Combine errand trips. Make a list of all that you have to do that day or week, and see if there's a way to combine a trip or two. The short trips that we make to the grocery store, cleaners, etc. often use up more gas than you think because starting and stopping (city driving) requires more gas. This will save you time and offer a break for your bank account as gas prices continue to rise. Not to mention the helping the environment part.

Check back for two more tips tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's not easy being green Part 2

Continued from yesterday, these are two more tips on how to save resources and money. These are water based.

Tip #3- set out large bowls or something to gather rain water, and use that to water potted plants or flowers. This is cost-effective and rain water contains lots of things that tap water doesn't....things that plants need.

Tip #4- If you have a lawn to water, run the sprinklers in the morning or evening. Running them during the heat of the day can cause some of your watering to be lost to your money and clean water almost go up in smoke (steam, actually).

Stay tuned for two more tomorrow.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's not easy being green Part 1

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Genesis 2:15

Every once in a while I get on a "green kick." I'm no fanatic, but I try to make a conscious effort to be friendlier to our environment. During college I was amazed at some of my friend's living habits, which inspired me to write an article to prepare students for the bills of the real world. My focus was energy saving...specifically, saving on electricity bills. With summer (and higher energy consumption in almost every way) just around the corner, it seemed like a perfect time for a post to encourage "green-ness."
More and more companies are hopping on the green band wagon. Proclaiming themselves as "a green companies" that "care about the environment." This is an interesting shift from comparing products to their competitor's to comparing how their methods stack up against their competitor's on a global-awareness scale. As Christians, we too are called to care for the environment. We are to look after the land. Unfortunately, we live in a throw away society...and many of us were raised in a world that thought that there was an endless supply of energy. Thanks to gas prices rising more than two dollars in the past five years, we now know better.
So, as we enter summer, here are some helpful tips that I've gathered over the years. These will save energy and money! I'll post two daily this week. So check back on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
1.Turn off lights when you leave the room...light switches are usually conveniently located near the entrance to a room, so a simple motion is not that hard. I don't think you'll get carpal tunnel syndrome, but you just might feel better about how you're treating the environment.
2.Turn the A/C down. If you're used to staying in the 70-72 range, get used to will save quite a bit of energy, and really lighten the load on your bill. Ceiling fans can help keep rooms feeling cooler for a fraction of the cost! Lights may be the most obvious thing to point out, but even the most environmentally unfriendly light these days uses more energy than an air conditioning unit.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How we should live love

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5: 43-45a

May 1st was a special day in sports. With all the recent news of steriods, violence, delinquency of athletes, and fights breaking was good to hear a story that should be the norm in the field of sports. Sara Tuchulsky, a softball player at the University of Western Oregon belted a homerun (her first in a four year career) and began her trot around the bases...only to have it stop at first when she tore her ACL. Unable to run the rest of the bases, Sara's coach asked if some of the Western Oregon players could help her make the rest of the trip. Under NCAA rules, this would have nullified the homer, and Sara would have only been credited with a single. Two players on the opposing team Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace carried Sara around second, third, and on to home plate...making Sara's home run trot perfectly legal.
"I think as women, we're able to separate the know, seeing someone hurt there. We're just able to separate that from the need to do what's right." Read the article I took this quote from or watch a local newscast with some video of Sara being carried.
These were college athletes. Young women that had probably played since they were in first grade...maybe before. There's no doubt that they are competitive people. But they were able to separate competition and do what they knew was right. The key word is DO. Often we know what we should do, but don't. These girls knew, and did. Amazing. People actually treating each other with kindness and common courtesy...even a player on the opposing team. Sometimes people can be hard to love. Some people seem to work against you, or they're simply "not nice." Whatever it is, we're called to love everyone. No exceptions. Take the softball story as an example of knowing and doing the right thing- loving each other.

Monday, April 28, 2008


"After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." John 20:20
I had a rare privilege yesterday after church. I hung out with a group of 1-2 year olds. I tried to get these children to look at me, and not run away in fear when I talked to them....and then, I was amazed at how much one thing could change their mood....
None of the children were upset while I was there, I would actually describe their mood as "chill." They were content to play with the fire trucks, giant elmo, alligator xylophones....and pretty much did what they wanted to. But, as church let out, their parents started showing up at the door of the nursery. I enjoyed watching their faces as they looked at, and recognized their moms and dads....words could describe the joy in those children's eyes. It was remarkable. They were so happy and ran (well, sort of wobbled quickly) over to their parents, and their parents picked them up and returned the joy with a hug and kind words (in higher octaves...because we do that when we talk to babies). It was as if I was watching a sermon.
Can you imagine what it's going to be like? When we finally meet Jesus and God? I think it's going to be one of those moments when your face hurts from smiling so much...and your heart jumps in elation.
So, why can't we greet God with the same jubilation in our weekly worship and daily life? We get so bogged down and get used to going through the motions, and forget that we are privileged to be able to worship our God...especially those that are able to openly worship. This week, try to Glorify God and greet God with the same kind of joy a child greets his/her parent with after a long absence.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him." Matthew 3:16

Yesterday was confirmation Sunday at our church. Fourteen young people joined the church through profession of faith, a few were baptized...I had the honor of taking part in their confirmation/baptism, and it reminded me of my own baptism.

I was not baptized as an infant because the church my family attended when I was born did not baptize infants...but that's ok with me, because it gave me the gift of remembering the day. I can tell you what I was wearing, who was there, who took the picture of me....most of the details. But by far the most meaningful part of the experience after church was out. My family went to the grocery store to get food for lunch, while we were checking out, I looked up at a clock on the I did this, a drop of water fell off my hair and onto my neck....It gave me chills- a reminder that God (and our faith) go with us everywhere. Too often we focus on these "big" days, and forget that these mountain top experiences are not the end of the journey, but rather the point at which we reach a peak that allows us to see farther than we had before, and see all that we've accomplished.

This week I invite you to remember that you've been baptized into a new life... you can't go back to the way things used to be, and this should cause you to be thankful.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reason to Celebrate

"They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening..." 1 Chronicles 23:30

We watched a video in church yesterday that was very was about baby that was not expected to make it through childbirth. The documentary of the boy's life was narrated by his father in short letters about what he did that day. The child was sick and in every picture and home video he had tubes in his nose. But the most impressive thing was the way that the parents handled the situation...Their son was not expected to live very they celebrated every day and took joy in the tedious tasks of caring for him. For the first few weeks of the child's life, they had a birthday party every day on the hour of his birth, with pictures from each party.
As I watched the video I felt guilty, not for being healthy and having a healthy family, but for taking every day for granted. We have been given an invaluable gift, and instead of accepting it joyfully, we tend to moan and groan about all the "things that make life hard." We get so caught up in thinking about all the stresses that we forget to enjoy life....more importantly, we forget to thank God and celebrate each day. When I was an intern with Project Transformation, we began every day with the children and youth we worked with by having Harambee - a Swahili word meaning "pulling together." During Harambee, we would sing silly songs, and just celebrate the fact that we were all there that day...those fifteen minutes were usually some of my favorite parts of the day. I miss that. I miss the kids. I miss the passion for life.
This week, I'm going to try to get out bed with an understanding that today does not bring more tasks, or stresses, but that each day brings sunshine, life, and is a gift that I should accept with a smile and a song. Feel free to join me.

Monday, April 7, 2008

You Can't Earn it

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 1For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." -Ephesians 2:8-10

So, I spent about 13 hours at church yesterday. The morning was busy with the usual stuff, then the afternoon and evening was busy with men's softball practice and the biggest fund raiser of the year. At about nine o'clock last night, I finished cleaning up the kitchen and walked to my car...I sighed as I sat down and felt my tired feet begin to relax....cranked the engine...."click, click, click" (look of confusion on my face)...try it again...."click click click"....(confusion turns into irritation). So I went to get the keys to the church van and jumped the car...let it run for a while, then turned it off and tried to start it again...same result (repeat) Then I phoned a friend and he suggested driving the car for a while before I shut it I did, half an hour later, I shut the car down and tried to start it up...."click......" so I gave up, and sarcastically muttered to myself..."That's what I get for spending the whole day at church raising money for missions." The Bible nerd in me started thinking about how Martin Luther might be getting back at me for putting a scripture from James (he wasn't a fan of that book) on the slideshow we showed during the fund raiser...but on a serious note, it goes to show you that there isn't anything we can do to earn God's favor...because it's been given to charge, all we have to do is accept the gift of grace and try to lead the life of love we are called to.